September 25, 2018

Adelson and Trump

A couple of months ago, I was sitting in a booth at Langer’s Delicatessen, studying the menu and munching on half-sours when an elderly man caught my eye.

He was hobbling toward a table, part of a large family entourage, accompanied by a tall, grim-faced bodyguard. Wow, I thought, that’s Sheldon Adelson.

Norm Langer himself walked over to schmooze with Adelson, who looked up and smiled. And why not? Here was a self-made man of enormous wealth and power, surrounded by his family, fussed over by the owner, about to enjoy a pastrami sandwich better than even the finest restaurant at The Venetian Las Vegas could duplicate. 

My first impulse was to go introduce myself and chat. But I stayed put. I knew I’d never make it past the bodyguard, and, anyway, if you care about food, Langer’s is holy ground, and I hate talking business in shul.

In the weeks since, I’ve often wondered what I might have said to Adelson. Last week, I figured it out. Adelson announced he is unequivocally backing Donald Trump for president. He said he is prepared to spend up to $100 million of his fortune to get Trump elected. Adelson is primarily a one-issue voter, he told a journalist, and that issue is Israel. Trump, he said, “will be good for Israel.”

So now I know exactly what I would say: I know you love Israel, Mr. Adelson, but I want you to consider the possibility that by supporting Trump, you are hurting, not helping, the country you love. If “pro-Israel” means supporting Trump, then it’s time to redefine what “pro-Israel” means.

First, let’s understand that in many ways, you are the face of the pro-Israel American Jew. Nothing to be ashamed of there. You very publicly identify yourself as a one-issue voter, and you lavish millions of dollars on Israeli causes. Some of these, like Birthright, have changed the face of world Jewry and touched the lives of all kinds of people in profound, lasting ways. At a time when the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is trying to rebrand Israel as oppressive, Birthright helps young people experience the country in its beauty and complexity.

But then you go and throw your support, uncritically, with no caveats, conditions or what-have-yous, behind a man whose words and policies attack the democratic values Israel and America stand for, and the people it needs to coexist with to survive.

After Trump called for a “total ban” on Muslims coming into the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to receive him in Israel. A country that is 20 percent Arab, that is bound to live with and among Muslims, that really is the only democracy in the Middle East, cannot single out a minority based on its religion. And, of course, neither can the United States. 

That’s one reason why House Speaker Paul Ryan has so far refused to endorse Trump. So why can the country’s most powerful Republican stand on principle, while a lover of Israel can’t? Frankly, Mr. Adelson (and I would say this to you) it’s embarrassing.

And how is it pro-Israel to support someone who engages in the wholesale denigration of Mexicans? Latinos are the fastest-growing and most powerful minority in this country — one whose support Israel will need in the coming years. To mingle the “pro-Israel” brand with appeals to racism and xenophobia plays directly into the hands of the Israel haters. And Trump’s history of regressive statements on women stands in stark contrast to the freedom, strength and accomplishments of women in Israel.

If you believe the United States is Israel’s most important ally in the world, then you must agree that America’s support for Israel depends, ultimately, on the support of the American people. Trump has deeply alienated women and Latinos. And let’s be very clear: If any leader had said about Jews what Trump has said about Muslims and Mexicans, we would be screaming to repudiate him. And we would expect other groups to stand with us.

So what should you do now? Simple. It’s not too late to make clear to the man with the world’s largest megaphone that your $100 million is contingent on him walking back entirely his policies on Muslims and his statements on Mexicans. All the rest of Trump’s outlandish, often ill-informed and frequently flip-floppy policies are beside the point. Tell Trump you can’t be pro-Israel and pick on minorities. You can’t be pro-Israel and anti-democracy.

I don’t expect you to retract your support, but I do hope you’ll see the damage Trumpism will do to the two countries you love. 

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Letters to the editor: E-bikes, Al Gore and minimum wage

Cycling the City

I really enjoyed Rob Eshman’s column (“L.A., Meet My E-Bike,” May 6). I’ve ridden that route as well and am also concerned that there isn’t a big effort to allow bicycle riders a path to cross Los Angeles safely. I live on the Westside and would love to ride to downtown and back without worrying about getting hit. I have participated in CicLAvia and also in the Tour de Summer Camps ride, where last year there were three riders involved in a serious accident just ahead of me. I don’t know the answer, but we have to keep trying to make L.A. bike-friendly.

Ralph Hattenbach, Los Angeles

The Non-Gore Presidency Lesson

Regarding Danielle Berrin’s column “What If Al Gore Had Won?” (May 6), I completely agree. (There is still a Gore sticker on my car!) My family had the honor of spending Passover at a program that featured Sen. Joseph Lieberman and it was a sad reminder of how our democracy was hijacked, leading to the dissatisfaction of many people and the (justified) distrust of our system, which may have disastrous results this November. We will never know how the Gore-Lieberman presidency would have played out, but we should be ever vigilant to participate in the system and listen to what the candidates are saying.

Linda Rohatiner via email 

A hearty thank you to Danielle Berrin for her column “What If Al Gore Had Won?” Al Gore’s message is more important and timely than ever. Climate change deniers spread their lies and misinformation because of the almighty dollar and to the detriment of us all. I just hope we haven’t missed the boat on saving our Earth. I don’t care who says I’m exaggerating: The facts are there, and we need to be scared into taking real action before it’s too late.

Joshua Lewis Berg, Glendale

In Favor of $15 An Hour

Dennis Prager (“Why Do Jews Support a $15 Minimum Wage?” April 29) is wrong on both the facts and the values. His letter is a virtual catalogue of the misinformation that is disseminated about raising the minimum wage. Two hundred economists recently signed a letter in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. They wrote: “ … the weight of evidence from the extensive professional literature has, for decades, consistently found that no significant effects on employment opportunities result when the minimum wage rises in reasonable increments. … The economy overall will benefit from the gains in equality tied to the minimum wage increase and related policy initiatives. Greater equality means working people have more spending power, which in turn supports greater overall demand in the economy.” Prager’s unfounded concern for the loss of jobs should be focused on the actual moral issue of corporations earning high profits while simultaneously depriving employees of sustainable wages and the resulting struggle to survive — exacerbated by lowering the wage floor and denying access to the middle class.

Jewish tradition understands a worker’s ability to live in dignity as being equal in importance to an employer’s ability to turn a profit. For this reason, rabbis of every denomination, worldwide, have supported workers’ rights to organize for wages and benefits, which allow them to live with dignity.

Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, Rabbi in Residence, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice

I wrote my UCLA dissertation on Katherine Philips Edson, who helped to pass California’s 1913 minimum wage law and then for 18 years sat on the state Industrial Welfare Commission to administer it. Dennis Prager’s misuse of history to argue against a raise in the federal minimum wage law is astounding.

The Davis-Bacon Act applied the principle of “prevailing wage,” which called for bidders seeking federal government contracts to match their workers’ wages to rates where the job would be fulfilled. Minimum wage is different in concept and execution, and the origins, motives and historical paths of each policy are distinct. Minimum wage law established a floor, or a bottom value below which workers could not sell their labor. The first U.S. state laws passed in California and Massachusetts in 1913, and by 1926, 16 more followed, in spite of the Supreme Court’s spurious ruling they interfered with the “liberty of contract” protection. Strategists who sought minimum wage (and hours) laws for all workers were forced to narrow their goals and create a sex- (or gender-) based argument in order to at least seek coverage for the most vulnerable workers who were ignored by organized labor, i.e., women and children. Contrary to Prager’s assertion, organized labor did not support minimum wage laws because union leaders feared the minimum would become the maximum and weaken their fledgling influence.

Jacqueline R. Braitman, Valley Village

Letters to the editor: Nancy Kricorian, Hannah Arendt, minimum wage and more

School Chums Discuss Middle East Problems

Rob Eshman and his old school friend who is working with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement tried to find common ground on Israel-Palestine and raised the question: Do you have a better idea or a better strategy to get there (“Nancy and Me,” April 29)? I would like to suggest that Jews and Muslims in the U.S. need to work together. Start by making personal friendships and connections. In her book, “Refusing to Be Enemies,” Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta, a Quaker-Jewish activist, promotes non-violent approaches to do so. It’s a start.

Gene Rothman, Culver City

Many thanks to Nancy Kricorian and Rob Eshman for this illuminating dialogue. Like many other people (Jews and others) who want to see an end to the Israeli occupation, I have wondered what precisely BDS policies are. Boycott goods produced by the occupation in the West Bank or all Israeli goods, etc.? Kricorian’s response to the question of why single out Israel and not Syria, North Korea or Saudi Arabia is a pretty good one: The United States throws tons of money and arms at Israel, so I, as a taxpayer, am complicit in what Israel does. But I shared in Eshman’s disappointment at the full measure of BDS’s demands, which clearly would mean an end to Israel. 

Kricorian asks if there is a better idea. Yes, there is, and it is being represented by J Street, which is very seriously pro-Israel and pro-peace, and lobbies for the two-state solution. There is an increasing visibility in the media for Street’s policies, and an increasing number of representatives ready to listen.

Alicia Ostriker via email

If Nancy wants to perpetuate the violence and injustices experienced on all sides, she has chosen the right path. If she wants peace and justice for all of Israel/Palestine, there is a very simple “better idea” working to move both sides closer to a vision of two states for two people … and there is much, much difficult work to be done to do that. It may not happen — and even if it does, it won’t happen with one simple piece of paper signed and state created — there will need to be a plan to get things there over an extended period of time.

But Nancy’s “answer” is a road to nowhere. “Ending the occupation” is a slogan, not a plan … and it is always easier to chant a slogan than to plan.

Lawrence Weinman, Jerusalem

Zimmerman Story Hits Sour Note

In the Katie Iulius article on Simone Zimmerman, although I agree with much of what the writer has to say, when was she appointed to speak for all, or most, “young Jews” who are interested only in the Kardashians or “cavorting” with Israeli soldiers (“To Simone Zimmerman, From a Schoolmate — and IDF Soldier,” April 22) — the author’s assumptions turned an interesting article sour and bitter, and a little ugly.

Richard A. Stone via email

Taking Issue With ‘Banality of Evil’

The allegation that Hannah Arendt’s construct, the banality of evil, is often misunderstood is invalidly employed to imply that if someone doesn’t accept it as a valid Holocaust explanation, then that someone is unable to understand it (“The Enduring Relevance of Hannah Arendt,” April 29).

Ada Ushpiz hasn’t made a film titled “The Enduring Spirit of Lucy Dawidowicz.” One might ask why Arendt is routinely celebrated as an intellectual while Dawidowicz is not? If Arendt hadn’t been willing or able to sufficiently fulfill her publishers’ dark objectives, I assert they would’ve promoted someone else.

Ivan Smason via email

Word of the Week: Praise

I’m well aware of the Mimouna celebrations, which have become increasingly popular in Israel, but I never knew what the word “Mimouna” means. Now I know: the Lucky Girl! (“Hebrew Word of the Week,” April 29).

We’re lucky that professor Yona Sabar is sharing with us his unique knowledge of Hebrew in such an interesting and fun way in his “Hebrew Word of the Week” feature. Although I’m an Israeli with a solid knowledge of Hebrew, I always find new (even surprising!) aspects of the Hebrew language in Sabar’s posts, which I share with my family and friends during Shabbat meals.

Rivka Sherman-Gold, Yodan Publishing

Wage Hike and Small Business

Like Dennis Prager, I, too, was opposed to the recent arbitrary wage increase foisted upon small business owners in Los Angeles and the state (“Why Do Jews Support a $15 Minimum Wage?” April 29). 

Besides the economic burden to squeeze out what minimal profits some businesses operate on (such as the 4 to 6 percent profit margin of restaurants, for example), what about the question of the moral “rightness” of the government altering the once “free” enterprise system?

I guess social democrats are happiest and feel the most fulfilled when they kowtow to labor unions and the working poor, so, what do they care about small, middle class-owned businesses?

Rick Solomon, Lake Balboa

L.A., meet the e-bike

In February, the public radio station KPCC staged a race to determine the fastest way to get across Los Angeles at rush hour.

[RELATED: Los Angeles electric bike resources]

Three people simultaneously left downtown’s Union Station on a Monday morning at 8:30 a.m., headed for the Santa Monica Pier – one by bike, one by car and a third by bus.  The bus took 94 minutes.  The car, 70 minutes. The bicyclist won, narrowly beating the driver of the car, at 65 minutes.

This past Monday, I decided I could beat them all.  What did I have that they didn’t?  A secret weapon, one that I believe could revolutionize Los Angeles traffic.

An electric bicycle.

Let me back up. Los Angeles is facing the following challenge: How do we create a city of strong, sustainable communities easily accessible to one another?  How do we share one another’s ideas, eat at one another’s tables, experience one another’s cultures, if it takes two hours to get across town? 

“City dwellers around the world are beginning to see the potential of their city streets and want to reclaim them,” former New York City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan writes in her indispensable new book “Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution.”  “They are recognizing an unmet hunger for livable, inviting public space.” 

Though you wouldn’t know it from this city’s lengthening commute times, Los Angeles is ever so slowly finding ways to satisfy that hunger.  There’s the new Metro Expo Line extension to Santa Monica opening next week; there are a few more bike paths, and there’s the Los Angeles Department of City Planning’s visionary Mobility Plan 2035.   

But what all these initiatives lack is a vehicle to fill the gap between the car, the bicycle — which for the average person can mean sweaty or strenuous commutes —and public transportation, which is never able to take you door-to-door.    That’s where e-bikes come in. They top out at speeds around 20 mph, don’t require a special license or insurance, and each year are improving in battery capacity, design and range.

And they’re catching on—everywhere but here. In Europe e-bike sales are up 47 percent since 2008.  In Israel e-bikes have soared in popularity. More than 700,000 were sold in Europe last year, compared to 53,000 in the United States.  In China, 200 million are in use. 

For most consumers in the States – including me—the barrier has been cost — most e-bikes run around $2,000. But not long ago, an eccentric inventor launched an Indiegogo campaign for a $499 e-bike, the Sondors e-bike. It has 350 watts and goes up to 20 miles on a charge, with no pedaling, up to 50 with pedaling. It is bright, fat-tired and zippy —  a Tesla for the 99 percent.  After my old bike was stolen, I bought a Storm.

And so, last Monday, powered up with a full charge and carrying an extra battery, I loaded the bike into my car and drove to Union Station, the starting point of the KPCC commuter challenge.  At 8:30 a.m., off I went. 

Getting out of downtown felt like a game of Escape the Room. The bike lane on Spring Street disappears into a construction zone near Olympic.  Car bumpers zoomed past inches from my calf. Venice Boulevard heading west wasn’t a vast improvement.  Small green-and-white signs announcing “Bike Route” start about three miles west of downtown and are posted every block. Sometimes white painted images of a bike and arrows on the street suggest an actual bike path, though these “sharrow” lanes, as they are called, in reality belong to turning and parking cars.  I didn’t see one other bike on my entire ride. Those “Bike Route” signs might as well say, “Unicorn Crossing.”

Where San Vicente Boulevard merges with Venice Boulevard, the bike lane inexplicably continues into the middle of the street, then vanishes into the intersection. This might be the most dangerous 20 feet of bikeway in the continental United States.  

I decided to take San Vicente to Olympic, then head west – a poor choice, I know, since Olympic Boulevard is basically a wannabe interstate.  Near Century City, westbound traffic was beginning to coagulate, and I cruised by it.  This is when I caught drivers glimpsing me with e-bike envy—which, as I have learned from zooming past traffic on Lincoln Boulevard, is a real thing.

In Santa Monica, the new Expo Line’s dedicated bike lane kicked in, and for a mile I was in nirvana.  I had the path all to myself, separated from traffic.   That short stretch convinced me: With protected bike paths, e-bikes would rule L.A. In a flash, I was at the Pier.

How’d I do? 74 minutes.  Four minutes behind the time it took the KPCC driver to commute by car. Nine minutes behind the bicyclist who, hats off to him, must have kicked butt. 

“The entire time,” the cyclist, KPCC reporter Jacob Margolis reported at the time, “I was completely out of breath. I actually did strain my quad.”  

But unlike the driver, my commute cost me nothing for parking, gas or insurance—just 21 cents worth of electricity.   

And as opposed to Margolis, my quads felt fine. I didn’t break a single bead of sweat. I rode 18.8 miles in 74 minutes, at an average speed of 15.24 mph – and proved that e-bikes are part of the solution to a livable L.A.

Besides, when I want real exercise, I can always e-bike to spin class. 

Rob Eshman is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TRIBE Media Corp/The Jewish Journal. Follow Rob at @RobEshman.

Julia Ioffe, meet the real Donald Trump

Back in February as the winds began to shift toward Donald Trump, they picked up  a distinct anti-Semitic odor.  It was more subtle then, like rotting jasmine in the night air, but if you inhaled deep enough, it really stank.

I wrote a column, “Donald Trump Has a White Supremicist Problem.”  This is what I sniffed: 

“White nationalist leaders including Jared Taylor and former Klansman David Duke have endorsed Trump. On Vanguard News Network, the largest white supremacist website, Trump is regularly referred to as “Glorious Leader.” Bloggers compare him to Hitler, treating him like the Second Coming of the Third Reich. In January, William Johnson, leader of the white supremacist American Freedom Party, paid for a series of robocalls in Iowa in support of Trump. Johnson convened a 2015 white power political event in Bakersfield at which Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Youth Network gave a speech blaming Jews for destroying the white race.”

[Melania Trump: Ioffe ‘provoked’ anti-Semitic abuse]

As Trump has gained ground, he has not done anything — not a  speech, not a campaign strategy, nothing — to wash the stench off.  If anything, the same hate-filled, marginal voices that rose up to support him them feel even more empowered.

New evidence of that emerged this week in the vicious anti-semitic responses to a profile of Melania Trump.

Melania didn’t like the GQ journalist Julia Ioffee’s feature profile of her, and let it be known that she was suspicious of Ioffe's motives.  That mobilized the Trumpfers, whose Internet comments directed to Ioffe, who is Jewish, tell a story of rabid, unbridled, unchecked, and growing anti-Semitism, as documented in a Mediate column

“With Jews, you lose!” read one tweet, which featured a cartoon of a hook-nosed, money-grubbing caricature. 

@Gasthekikes tweeted to Ioffe, “Whacha doing kike? you sure will make a preeurdy lampshade then it's….” — and posted a mock poster of a movie, “Back to the Ovens.” 

(Question for @Gasthekikes, if you really did @gasthekikes, who would have written and produced “Back to the Future?”). 

It went on and on and on— with perhaps  the single most disturbing image tweeted to Ioffe being a cartoon of a Jewish-looking man on his knees with a bullet passing through his brain.  Trump 2016! 

Will Donald speak out?  Will his Jewish daughter and son-in-law at least publicly keep their mouths shut about this issue?  I don’t know. But it stinks.

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @RobEshman and Instagram @foodaism.

Letters to the editor: Passover edition, Simone Zimmerman and more

Passover Deluxe

Your Passover edition: What a great seder feast for the mind, representing a rainbow of opinions, right, left and center, beginning with “Seder at Bernie’s” and ending with “The Malicious Anti-Israel Lie Told by Jews” (April 22). But the most inspiring and uniting one was “Picking Up the Pieces” (by Rabbi Amy Bernstein), about the afikomen as dessert. It made my Passover!

Yona Sabar, Westwood 

Welcoming the Stranger

Very thought-provoking cover story, I can relate deeply on many levels (“The Elijah Dilemma: How Do You Welcome the Stranger When You Can’t Stand Your Neighbor?” April 22). I think we want to appear kind and open- hearted, which conflicts with our boundaries. If we set boundaries, then we may not be so open-hearted, but we at least are being honest. I did not open my seder to everyone. I have boundaries with the fact that some people change the energy of a room, and if I am sharing my home, I have a plan for how I want it to feel. That said, it is a painful dilemma. The nice me would open my home to everyone. The one with boundaries is more honest and therefore more selfish, which does not feel good, either. Prayer is helpful.

Barbara Goodson via jewishjournal.com

Monica Osborne’s wonderful and insightful cover article reminds me of those zealous youths of my generation who wanted to go out and repair the world and yet couldn’t be bothered to clean their rooms to bring peace to their parents. 

I hope the book on the midrash she is currently finishing will shed some light on our obligation as Jews to bring the stranger into our midst, and whether we are obliged to bring food to them rather than leave some for them in the corner of our fields to harvest.

Warren Scheinin, Redondo Beach

And We Raise Our Cups

Witty, insightful and right on (“Seder at Bernie’s,” April 22). I am reading this column after our seder. I don’t always agree with everything Rob Eshman says, but I always admire the way he says it. This piece is a little masterpiece!

Irina Bragin via jewishjournal.com

If Not Now, What Then?

David Myers’ entire house of cards defense of Simone Zimmerman is belied in what appears to be a throwaway line describing the IfNotNow movement (“Who Is Simone Zimmerman?” April 22). Myers states, “Rather than compound the difficulty of the task [of seeking to end the occupation] by considering a range of long-term political solutions, IfNotNow’s sole focus is to upset the status quo of opinion and deed in order to bring an end to the occupation, full stop.”

What an absurd, dangerously simplistic, reductionist and hopelessly naïve approach. IfNotNow, much like Myers himself, and others who blame Israel for maintaining control of the West Bank, doesn’t propose any practical solution to the problem — because there are none, not now and not for the foreseeable future.  

Jeff Kandel via email

Thank you, David Myers. Young (or old) Jews shouldn’t have to check their critical faculties at the door when they discuss Israel.

Rosanne Keynan via Facebook

Ask the Israelis

Once again, professor David N. Myers finds fault with Jewish Israelis (“Pew Israel Survey,” April 15). He laments that, according to the survey, a plurality of Jewish Israelis favor expelling or transferring Arabs out of Israel. Myers spoke to two of his Arab friends, and they also lamented this.

I wonder why Myers did not ask Jewish Israelis their reasons. Could the reasons be that they don’t want Arabs to stab them to death, or crush them to death with a car, or obliterate them with explosives?

Myers asks, “How would Jews feel if nearly half, or even a quarter of America’s population favored our removal?”

How would Americans feel if nearly every day, Arab terrorists stabbed and blew up Americans? If every time they left the house, or their husbands or wives or daughters or sons, they were worried about getting murdered?

Paul Nisenbaum, Los Angeles

Letters to the editor: Israel’s video, the U.N., an affordable Jewish education and more

Predator or Protector?

Regarding Rob Eshman’s column about the shooting in Hebron: He is certainly entitled to his opinion, but this soldier is also entitled to his day in court and Eshman’s inflammatory comments before the court hearing endanger this soldier’s rights (“Israel’s Vicious Video,” April 8). We all have a point of view that we wish to share and we should be free to do so, but not when it endangers the rights of others.

It is reasonably clear the terrorist would have died under any circumstances. Therefore, the question was whether it was reasonable to assume he had a suicide belt on that could have endangered the lives of more people. Has Eshman served in any military, let alone in the Israel Defense Forces as a teenager, where split-second decisions must be made that determine if you and others  live or die at the hands of fanatics?

Eshman using his position at the Jewish Journal to be the prosecutor, judge and jury is, in this case, reckless and unfair.

Jack de Lowe, Raanana, Israel

Fear not for the future of the IDF. Quoting a former Yitzhak Rabin “adviser” and facilitator of the Oslo accords, the single most damaging capitulation ever taken on by Israel, that the IDF is in danger of “collapsing,” is ludicrous. As is Eshman’s damaging diatribe against a soldier protecting our homeland. Yes, we have an internal existential threat, but it’s not the army and it’s not what he believe is our path down the rabbit hole of diminishing proper behavior in defense of our country. It’s our own people ignoring the call of our enemies for our destruction that poses the greatest threat to our existence.

Allan Kandel, Los Angeles

U.N. an Unholy Alliance

It would make my day if I were to read a letter to the editor or an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times like David Suissa’s editorial titled “A Resolution Against the U.N.,” (April 8).

Suissa reports that more than 80 percent of United Nations condemnations in each of the last four years have been against Israel. The rest  are divided among the other 191 members of the U.N. Such a disparity highlights the strong bias of the U.N. against Israel. How anyone can believe that any one country deserves more than 80 percent of U.N. condemnations is beyond me.

To confine Suissa’s year-by-year enumeration of U.N. condemnations of Israel to the readers of the Jewish Journal is not only an injustice to Israel but is preventing people at large from learning how biased the U.N. is against Israel.

Marc Jacobson, Los Angeles

Unaffordable, Not Unattainable

I would like to thank the Jewish Journal and Jared Sichel for the thorough research and wonderful job they did covering the Nagel Jewish Academy (“Jewish Education for a Two-Figure Tuition,” April 8).

I need to clarify one thing — mainly because my mother called me, upset. Her complaint was, “How could you say that tuition for a Jewish education is a waste of money?”

My whole raison d’etre is based on the good book’s commandment of “Inform them to your children and your children’s children,” so it was not my intent to imply otherwise. My concern is in how we deliver it. The cost of Jewish education is astronomical — and out of reach for many Jews. I pay $80,000 to educate my four children, and yet most of that money is going to pay for the things that public schools already provide.

So with Jewish parents who are already sending their kids to their neighborhood public school, and who feel disappointed they can’t pay for a private Jewish education, Nagel Jewish Academy is there to fill in the gap. Nagel Jewish Academy’s singular focus on a Jewish education has reduced the price to $1,250 per child (tax deductible), and we have covered all the costs ourselves to make it free for all parents.

We want to offer a Jewish education for free to those who can’t afford one. It’s not a replacement for a private Jewish school, but an alternative.

Levi Nagel, Founder of Nagel Jewish Academy

The Message Is the Medium

Dr. Gary Michelson certainly has accomplished a lot and given a lot, but I was left very cold with his disingenuous and dismissive answer to the question about donating to Jewish charities (“The Life Saver,” April 1).

As wonderful as he might be, this article belongs more in the L.A. Times than on the cover of the Jewish Journal.

Bill Fields, Los Angeles

correction

The article “Jewish Education for a Two-Figure Tuition” (April 8) incorrectly identified the owner of the space used by Nagel Jewish Academy in Beverlywood. It is owned by the Friendship Circle of Los Angeles.

 

A Moving and Shaking item about a discussion at IKAR, “How to Live as Jews in the World: Particularism vs. Universalism” (April 1), misidentified the interim president of the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. She is Rabbi Laura Owens.

Haters, meet Najia

“I wanted to become someone,” the young Afghani woman told me, matter-of-factly. “I wanted to grow.”

Najia Sarwari — intense dark eyes, flawless olive skin, long black hair — was standing in the lobby of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Five years earlier, she couldn’t leave her home in Kandahar without permission, or without covering her hair and face. But Najia had just become a U.S. citizen. Five minutes earlier, I’d watched Najia raise her right hand and swear allegiance to the United States of America. 

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or which I had heretofore been a subject or citizen,” were the words uttered first by Leon Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “That I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” 

And Najia repeated after him. 

Thirteen more new Americans also took the oath at the same time. While my iPhone captured a video of Rodriguez — himself the grandson of Turkish Jews who fled to Cuba — I watched the immigrants’ faces. Some cried. Some smiled. Most paid careful attention, pronouncing every word like a magic spell.

“Congratulations,” Rodriguez said, “you are now Americans.”

The audience applauded. The new citizens waved little plastic Stars and Stripes flags. The ceremony was short and simple. It was also one of the most moving I have ever witnessed.

Election 2016 has been fueled by anti-immigrant fervor — not just against illegal immigrants from Mexico, but against legal immigrants who happen to be Muslim, like Najia. The debate ignores three facts. First, net immigration from Mexico is down — there is no illegal immigration crisis. Second, there can be no religious test for citizenship. Third, immigration is not just what makes America great, it’s what makes America, period.

Every American should be required to watch a naturalization ceremony. I happened to witness Najia’s because Uri Herscher, founder and president of the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, was being honored at the same ceremony, and I happened to be in Washington at the time. 

Herscher, who was born in Tel Aviv in 1941, received the Outstanding American by Choice Award, given to immigrants who have made an outstanding contribution to American society. Herscher, a board member of TRIBE Media Corp., parent company of the Jewish Journal, arrived in the United States on a cargo ship on March 24, 1954 at age 13. His parents, refugees from Nazi Germany, where his grandparents perished, went first to Israel, then came to the U.S. He went on to earn his rabbinic ordination and a doctorate. He later founded the Skirball, a cultural center dedicated to the common values of America and Judaism. One of the most important of those values, Herscher said, is welcoming the stranger.

“The warmth of that American embrace has never left me,” Herscher said in his acceptance speech. “Immigration is America’s greatest resource, and its greatest promise. America needs people to come from all over the globe, to make America flourish.”

I watched the faces of the immigrants as they listened to Herscher. They had come from Denmark, Israel, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Algeria, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and included a Private First Class in the United States Army, from Trinidad and Tobago. I wondered if they were visualizing themselves in Herscher’s shoes one day, surrounded by a large, loving family, on the far side of his immigrant journey. 

George Washington, Herscher reminded them, said America was open “not just to the opulent stranger, but to the oppressed of all nations and all religions.” 

Like, for instance, Najia.

Afterward, I stopped Najia on her way out to learn her story. She was standing beside her husband, who was dressed in an impeccable dark suit and tie for the occasion. Najia’s husband is an Afghani-born U.S. citizen who met Najia in Afghanistan and brought her stateside on Jan. 10, 2009. She couldn’t wait to come to America.

“After second grade, I couldn’t go to school,” she explained, because of the Taliban. “I wanted to read something.”

She arrived not knowing a word of English. Najia took English classes at night. During the day, she worked the makeup counter at  Macy’s in the Pentagon City Mall.  She said she became an expert in all things Chanel.

I asked her, now that she’s an American, what she wants to do.

“I want to be a makeup artist for actresses,” Najia said, with utter certainty. “I want to become someone — in freedom.”


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at #RobEshman. 

Letters to the editor: CA’s water crisis, goodbye to Garry Shandling and more

A Serious Water Solution

California’s water crisis is written in its history of laissez-faire and monopoly (think “Chinatown”). California still has no unified water policy and can never successfully legislate one unless the state unceremoniously seizes control of the state’s water rights. “The Great Thirst: Californians and Water — A History” by Norris Hundley Jr. (University of California Press, 2001) is the definitive history of our water policy dysfunction. 

Yes, a unified wastewater policy, drip irrigation and better apportionment of our precious water are essential during times of drought (“How to Solve California’s Water Crisis, Now,” April 1). Extraordinary times demand a revolutionary water policy that the state must seize upon because our federal government also is without a water policy. And Congress is unable to deal with any relevant issues now that affect the public welfare.

Jerome P. Helman, Venice

Goodbye, Garry

In a time when sitcoms still adhered to the set-up punch line, set-up punch line rhythms that have been around since General Electric still attached its brand to the titles of every show on television, Garry Shandling skewered the conventions of the sitcom itself: satirizing the conventions of the form (most famously with the show’s celebrated tongue-in-cheek theme song); breaking the fourth wall; playing a fictionalized version of himself as a stand-up comedian often at odds with the absurdity of the world around him (“Remembering Garry Shandling,” April 1).

Without Garry Shandling, there would have been no “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” no “Louie” and perhaps not even “Seinfeld.” The consummate comedian’s comedian, Shandling might never have reached the cultural ubiquity of his friends Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David and Judd Apatow, Hollywood’s current comedic directorial king who got his start as a staff writer on “The Larry Sanders Show.”

Garry’s magic never relied on hacky mother-in-law or sex jokes. It bored in on his character’s raw inner life, what made Larry, Larry. The conceit was an ostensibly friendly talk-show host with a polar-opposite, troubled personal life. This was a pure example of comedy misdirection. Shandling was hiding in plain sight in front of a national audience. He wasn’t doing an impression of Johnny Carson. He was doing himself.

As a viewer, watching the paranoia play out was at the same time an uncomfortable and hilarious experience. The combination of smart writing and the understated acting of Shandling and his fellow players makes it a masterpiece.

That his passing should come so prematurely feels almost poetic, somehow: In death, as in his art, Garry Shandling was sadly ahead of his time. But the comedy world would be a very different place had he not been there to shape it. This has been Garry Shandling’s show; the rest of us are just working on it.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hills

Finally, a Balanced View

I picked up the April 1 issue of the Jewish Journal with the usual trepidation at its leftist tilt — a fellow conservative friend has simply stopped reading it — but was pleasantly surprised. Rob Eshman actually lauded Israel’s cutting-edge water reclamation technology with no caveats (“How to Solve israel’s Water Crisis, Now”); David Suissa was reliably pro-Israel and critical of Europe’s leftist anti-Zionist tyranny (“Europe Should Hire Israel, Not Condemn It”) and there were several substantive conservative letters, not just a tepid token.

Given Shmuel Rosner’s column, which I thought nailed President Barack Obama for being a disaster for Israel, perhaps now the Journal is ready to address the leftist “elephant in the room”: the fact that virtually all of America’s anti-Israel hatred is coming from the Democratic Party.

Rueben Gordon, Calabasas

Motivation to Hate Evil

None of us remember having a beforelife, but Dennis Prager believes in an afterlife (“Pick Two Biblical Verses,” April 1). If a love of God is necessary to get him to rant against evil, however, so be it. Lincoln said, “Public sentiment is everything,” and if Prager can get people to hate evil enough to fight it, his means of doing so are incidental to such an accomplishment.

Joe Colville, Torrance

CORRECTION

The article “7 Decorating Trends That Have Overstayed Their Welcome” (March 25) incorrectly referred to Ball Corp. as the manufacturer of Ball Mason jars. They are now made by Jarden Home Brands.

Israel’s vicious video

BDS is the Next Big Fear gripping the Jewish world.

But I want to devote this column to something terrible happening to Israel that has nothing to do with the international movement to Boycott, Sanction and Divest. What I’m worried about is just as terrible, if not more so — because it is something Israel is doing to itself.

I’m talking about the erosion of democracy.

The latest example — and there are many — happened two weeks ago. A video released by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem from March 24 shows the death of a Palestinian terrorist, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, 21, who, along with an accomplice, had just stabbed and wounded two Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers. As Israeli medics load the wounded IDF soldier into an ambulance, al-Sharif can be seen alive, lying wounded and disarmed on a Hebron street. Then, as an ambulance passes by, an IDF soldier shoots al-Sharif in the head. 

That should be a shot heard round the Jewish world. 

It is disturbing that the Israeli soldier disobeyed IDF protocol. It is appalling that a soldier’s voice can be heard cursing the Palestinian as a “dog” just before he’s shot. It is frightening that right after, the soldier who allegedly shot the terrorist — whose name is under a gag order — is shown in another video shaking hands with Baruch Marzel, a devoted disciple of the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane. Marzel is the man who in 2000 threw a Purim party at the grave of Baruch Goldstein, the religious extremist who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre.

The soldier in the videos was arrested and faces a manslaughter charge in the Palestinian’s shooting. Nevertheless, it is positively disheartening that a recent poll shows the majority of Israelis consider that IDF soldier a hero. It is not the soldier whom a majority of the Israeli public is angry with — it’s his IDF commanders who detained him and charged him with violating army protocol. 

Responding to the outcry, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot wrote an unprecedented letter to all soldiers last week, which was published in Israel’s newspapers.

“The IDF places the responsibility for fulfilling the mission in your hands — to protect the country,” Eisenkot wrote. “The commanders, with myself at their lead, shall continue to support every soldier who errs during the heat of battle against an enemy endangering the lives of civilians and soldiers. However, we shall not hesitate to exercise the law with soldiers and commanders who deviate from the operational and ethical criteria according to which we operate. Preserving the spirit of the IDF and its values is not a privilege, it is a duty, in order to maintain the IDF as the people’s army in a Jewish democratic state.”

Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon immediately condemned the shooting, ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet attacked Eisenkot for the letter. Protesters stormed the courthouse where the soldier is being held, demanding his release. Ministers circulated fliers around the defense headquarters denouncing Eisenkot and calling for his resignation.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a majority of Israelis side with the soldier. Facing the constant threat of terror, many Israelis feel knife-wielding terrorists deserve what’s coming to them.  But it is dangerous and unprecedented for ministers and their minions to turn against the IDF commanders who seek to prosecute the soldier. 

“If soldiers are getting commands from the outside, from ministers and agitators,” professor Yoram Peri, a former adviser to late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, said at a conference this past week at Brandeis University, “the IDF will collapse. And if the IDF collapses, Israel collapses.”

Turning the IDF into the enemy is to turn against the country’s founding principles. And that has been happening with alarming frequency not just among the mob, but at the highest levels of government.

Over the past few years, Israel’s lawmakers have sought to increase control of the legislature over the judiciary, weaken the rights of Israel’s Arab minority, and limit overseas contributions that support the activities of nongovernmental organizations, like B’Tselem and New Israel Fund, whose points of view they don’t agree with. None of this is brand new: Back in 2011, a law went into effect exposing anyone who calls for a boycott of settlements to a lawsuit. 

“Right-wing Knesset members do not understand that real democracy means not only majority rule,” Labor MK Avishay Braverman, former president of Ben-Gurion University, wrote in 2011, “but protection of free expression, respect for the rights of minorities and a constant struggle to preserve the principle of separation of powers, as well.”

Israel’s supporters abroad tend to ignore the inside-baseball maneuverings of Knesset lawmakers, but they shouldn’t. Bills like these strike at the core of what the vast majority of American Jews care about when they support Israel. 

The vicious video is stark evidence that there is another Israel, in which democracy is under siege, in which every part of the phrase “the people’s army in a democratic Jewish state” is a target of contempt. Israel’s external enemies, from Iran to ISIS to BDS, pose a serious threat, yes. But nothing like this.

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Kasich on faith

Two years ago, at a Palm Springs conference sponsored by the Koch brothers, a wealthy Republican donor challenged Ohio Gov. John Kasich on his decision to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Kasich’s temper flared.

“I don’t know about you, Lady,” he said, according to a report in Politico. “But when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.”

Some 20 donors and politicians rose and left the room, appalled by Kasich’s impudence. The following year, Kasich was not invited to attend the next Koch conference — held in Columbus, Ohio.

If Kasich was punished for adhering to a version of Christianity that emphasizes duty to the poor — you know, Jesus’ version — then his Republican opponents are being rewarded — in votes and in donations — for a version that is more exclusionary and judgmental.

And every four years, this faceoff repeats itself. As much as our presidential elections are a referendum on candidates, they are also a referendum on religion. More precisely, on which version of religious belief appeals to the broadest swath of the electorate. We’re not just electing a president, we’re electing a faith.

In 2016, the choices couldn’t be clearer. Marco Rubio, who has practiced as a Catholic, a Mormon and an evangelical, has made public protestations of faith a centerpiece of his campaign.

“Well, let me be clear about one thing: There’s only one savior, and it’s not me,” he said during a Jan. 28 televised debate in Des Moines, Iowa. “It’s Jesus Christ, who came down to Earth and died for our sins.”

Rubio’s stump speech is steeped in culture-wars rhetoric — anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage. One of his television ads actually said, “The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan” — reassuring evangelicals that A) there is one, and B) Marco Rubio knows what it is.

Ted Cruz, son of the preacher who directs the Purifying Fire Ministries of Dallas, is even more fiery in declaring his faith.

“We can turn our country around, but only if the body of Christ rises up,” he said in a speech at Liberty University in Virginia.

In Cruz’s version of Christianity, there is a one-to-one correspondence between what is right according to his faith, and what is right for all Americans: no IRS, no gun control, no abortion, no Common Core. To Cruz, these are matters not of policy, but of faith.

As for Donald J. Trump — who has actually outperformed Cruz and Rubio among evangelicals — his appeal is clearly not his personal morality. The man who bragged to radio host Howard Stern about [insert expletive] another man’s girlfriend behaves like a foul-mouthed, small-handed lout. But as a religious leader, Trump’s appeal is unparalleled.

In a 1987 survey of evangelical voters, social scientist Steve Mitchell found that what evangelicals looked for in a candidate was not where the candidate stood on social issues or even abortion.

“They got involved in politics for the same reason they got involved with their church — because they were looking for someone to help ‘show them the way.’ Evangelicals were drawn into politics by messianic leaders,” Mitchell wrote.

If Trump presents a version of Christianity that is authoritarian, and Cruz’s and Rubio’s version is fundamentalist, where does that leave Kasich?

He has repeatedly framed his decision to expand Medicaid despite conservative orthodoxy as a religious one. In (another) tense confrontation with evangelicals, he told them that while he opposed gay marriage, the Supreme Court has ruled and, “it’s time to move on.”

Kasich has said publicly he doesn’t often attend church, but finds God “wherever he is.” In his book on faith, “Every Other Monday” — the title refers to a regular Bible study group Kasich attends — Kasich said he approaches scripture with “an open heart and an open mind.”

And, while his beliefs may grate against many liberal sensibilities, such as his anti-abortion stance, there is something recognizable and approachable in his viewpoint of religion.

In Kasich, you hear echoes of progressive Christian clergy like Rev. Jim Wallis, who said, “You can’t be evangelical and associate yourself with Jesus and what he says about the poor and just have no other domestic concerns than tax cuts for wealthy people.”

In Kasich, you also hear echoes of Hillary Clinton’s discussions of her own Methodism, and even Bernie Sanders’ affirmation this week that his Jewish faith is “very important” to him, though he hardly wears it on his sleeve (just, you know, in his accent).

But is this the Christianity that America believes in? Is it possible that Kasich’s far more mainstream, thoughtful and less strident approach to faith will, in the end, have a broader appeal to Republican primary voters? By now, have they seen through Trump’s messianic dream of a stronger, whiter America, Cruz’s promise of a Grand Inquisitor-in-Chief and Rubio’s I-know-exactly-what-Jesus-wants self-righteousness?

As this column goes to press, the results of the Michigan primary are still not in, and Ohio is a week away. But more and more, Kasich appears as a real alternative.

Maybe that’s because, as the media and pundits keep saying, Kasich is “the only grown-up in the room.” But maybe it’s also because he’s a simple man of faith. 

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Letters to the editor: Donald Trump, disability inclusion and more

More Inclusion Programs

I am the mother of a 10-year-old boy who at 15 months was diagnosed with epilepsy (“Why Give a Damn About JDAIM?” Feb. 12). As he got older, his ability to read, communicate and socialize did not develop at a typical pace. I wondered if it would be possible for him to become a bar mitzvah, as would his younger brother. 

As I was looking around for synagogues for our family to join, it was important that I found a place where both my sons could enjoy a warm, inviting and educational environment. 

I soon learned about the OurSpace program at Temple Aliyah and Valley Beth Shalom. Living close to Temple Aliyah, I focused on this synagogue as our home base. I spoke several times with the rabbi, I visited the classrooms and I spoke with Susan North Gilboa, the director of the OurSpace program. I was assured that indeed my son would become a bar mitzvah. It was his Jewish birthright, and no difference in his abilities would take that away from him. Within the month, both of my sons were beginning their religious school. They both loved it … immediately. 

The three teachers Phineas has had while attending the past two years have been wonderful. They are patient, caring, innovative, hands-on teachers. He is bringing his learning home. He participates more in our family Shabbat blessings and holiday celebrations. He is even picking up a little Hebrew. I am so thankful that we found the OurSpace program.  This is a community we will be happy to be a part of for many years to come.

Melissa Brizee via email

Jewish Disability Awareness Month is incredibly important. Thank you for advocating for kids with special needs and for highlighting inclusive synagogues.

Jolene Philo via jewishjournal.com

No Peace

Regarding David N. Myers’ column (“What If Tom Friedman is Right?” Feb. 26), I agree with what Friedman said about how there will be no peace between the Israelis and Palestinians over the land of Israel. I think that the hopes of a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine diminished years ago. The only way the dispute will end is if one group cedes control of the land to the other. I think that having a joined Jewish and Palestinian state would not work because both parties want control over the capital city of Jerusalem. And if Friedman is correct in what he said, then what we should do is hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Oz Hadad, Encino

Reading Tom Friedman’s belief that the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis is no longer an option, I find his analysis distressing, destructive and hopefully wrong. I side with Shimon Peres, who, when asked about the future of Israel without a peace agreement, said, “We will see terror, bloodshed, hatred, and victims everywhere.”

Facing that future for Israel, we cannot afford to quit.  This is a long, long struggle, filled with anguish. But with no peace, and even the vision of peace abandoned, the Israeli population demographics for the years ahead show a Jewish minority ruling over a frustrated, hateful and angry majority in an ever-tense, dangerous and fearful Israel.

Moshe Dayan once said, “You don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies.” So we must continue the struggle, as dismal as it looks. There is really no alternative. 

Richard Gunther, Los Angeles

The Truth About Trump 

David Suissa’s column in the Feb. 19 issue of the Journal is very interesting and informative (“The Lure of Trump: No More Rip-Offs”). I really thought only “crazies” would follow Trump. I can understand a bit why he’s getting so many people cheering him on. However, his latest followers are white supremacists, specifically David Duke, a former leader of the KKK. And Trump didn’t condemn them. He said he “knows nothing about them.” I, for one, would not like to back anyone who the KKK backs. And, hopefully, this will affect his “not-so-crazy” backers. 

Anita Meyer, Tarzana

Don’t Demonize Donald!

No, Rob Eshman, you are not naïve (“Trump’s White Supremacists,” Feb. 26). You are a radical leftist defamer of Israel and conservatism. While I am no fan or supporter of Donald Trump, I read in your editorial a virulent abhorrence of the man. You demonize him by citing bloggers and white supremacists who support him. It is informative to note from your editorial that your incessant projection of conservative hate identifies yourself.

C.P. Lefkowitz, Rancho Palos Verdes

Moving and shaking: Jeopardy winner, AIPAC gala, YU and more

This local college student is $100,000 richer. The question, “Jeopardy!”-style, would be: “Who is USC student Sam Deutsch?”

The junior political economy major won the game show’s recent college tournament, which culminated on Feb. 12. 

“It definitely has not sunk in yet. I don’t know if it ever will,” Deutsch wrote the Journal in an email from the Netherlands, where he’s spending a semester studying at Maastricht University. The Bethesda, Md., resident plans to go to law school and work in his native Washington, D.C., after graduation.

Deutsch said he played online trivia games, watched “Jeopardy!” episodes using a pen as the buzzer and brushed up on history and geography to prepare. His mother and father attended the show’s January taping, along with his grandmother, uncle and a few USC classmates. The latter held viewing parties when the show aired and sent congratulatory messages and pictures. “Even though I’m halfway across the world, I still feel close to home,” Deutsch said.

He said he plans to use his prize money for law school, travel, and a donation to the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University in honor of his mother, a cancer survivor. 

At USC, Deutsch, 20, said he has DJ’d at Hillel’s Chanukah party and observes Passover and the High Holy Days. He’ll compete in the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions (TOC) in November for a $250,000 prize. “The fact that I’ve even gotten this far is amazing, so anything that happens in the TOC is a huge bonus,” he said. 

— Gerri Miller, Contributing Writer


More than 1,400 guests attended AIPAC’s Los Angeles Gala Dinner on Feb. 21 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. Featured speakers included former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; AIPAC Christian activist Pastor Chris Edmonds, whose father was recently recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for saving Jewish prisoners of war during World War II; Wayne Klitofsky, AIPAC’s regional director; and Julie Munjack, Los Angeles AIPAC director. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) took part in a panel moderated by AIPAC board member Michael Tuchin.

Attendees included a number of Democratic congressmen from California: Brad Sherman, Linda Sanchez, Janice Hahn, Julia Brownley, Alan Lowenthal, Raul Ruiz and Mark Takano. Among the state legislators present were Democrat State Sens. Isadore Hall and Ben Allen and Republican Jeff Stone, as well as Democratic Assemblyman Matt Dababneh and Republican Travis Allen.

Other officials included Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel, Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, West Hollywood Councilman John Duran, and Santa Ana Councilmember Michele Martinez.

AIPAC is a pro-Israel lobby that it urges members of Congress to support Israel through foreign aid, government partnerships and more.

— Jewish Insider


Academy of Jewish Religion, California (AJRCA) has appointed Rabbi Laura Owens of Congregation B’nai Horin as its interim president. Former President Tamar Frankiel, who became the first Orthodox woman to lead an American rabbinical seminary when she was appointed president in 2013, has returned to the position of provost.

Rabbi Laura Owens, interim president at Academy of Jewish Religion, California. Photo courtesy of AJRCA

“She is a remarkably gifted woman and we are so honored and delighted she is staying on as provost,” Owens said.

Owens, who served as chair of the board at the school before being named president, earned her bachelor’s degree in theater arts from USC, and has spent most of her adult career as an actress, appearing on television and in theater, according to her congregation’s website. She was ordained at AJRCA in 2008.

Succeeding Owens is Marlene Canter, who graduated from the school in 2015 and is serving as interim board chair.

The transition in leadership became effective Jan. 1. Meanwhile, a search for a long-term president is underway.

AJRCA is a transdenominational school in Koreatown dedicated to training rabbis, cantors, chaplains and other Jewish community leaders. The school currently serves approximately 60 students, according to its website. 


Some 300 people turned out Feb. 17 at Stephen Wise Temple to hear Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback moderate a debate between Rob Eshman, publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media/Jewish Journal, and David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media/Jewish Journal. 

From left: Stephen Wise Temple Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback, Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman and Jewish Journal President David Suissa appear at Stephen Wise Temple for a conversation about Israel, American Jewry and more. Photo by Lisa Ellen Niver

The two outlined their sharp differences over the Iran nuclear deal, how to approach Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and President Barack Obama’s Mideast policies, but also focused on how they work together to create media that incorporate the widest range of viewpoints.


From Jan 17-24, Yosef Kerendian, Ezra Schwarcz and Bella Sebban, three Orthodox or Modern Orthodox Los Angelenos who are currently enrolled at Yeshiva University (YU), participated in a trip to Israel organized by the university during their winter break. 

Participants in the Yeshiva University-organized trip to Israel in January included (seated from left) YU students Manny Dahari of Chicago and Angelenos Yosef Kerendian, Ezra Schwarcz and Bella Sebban. Photo courtesy of Yeshiva University

In total, 20 YU undergraduate students from around the country participated in the trip. 

Kerendian, 19, graduated from Yeshiva Gedolah of Los Angeles; Schwarcz, 22, is an alumnus of Shalhevet High School; and Sebban, 22, is a graduate of Bais Yaakov School for Girls. 

“I had the tremendous privilege of spending seven insightful, emotional and thought-provoking days on Yeshiva University’s 2016 Solidarity Mission to Israel this past week,” Sebban said in a statement provided to the Journal. “After going on this mission, I feel very strongly about spreading the message that no matter where you are in the world, the land of Israel is intertwined in the genetic makeup of a Jew.”

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

Letters to the editor: JDAIM, Marty Baron and more

A Perfect Fit

I read “Why Give a Damn about JDAIM” (Feb. 12) by Michelle Wolf and I wanted to share my experience with inclusion. Our son Alex was born with a developmental disability and, from a young age of 2, has always loved Jewish prayers and Jewish culture. Now 13, he is getting ready to become a bar mitzvah this April.

Congregation Or Ami was the third temple we tried. It seemed that we were always trying to get our son to “fit in” with the mainstream kids. No one seemed to get it that Alex just couldn’t fit in until we found Or Ami. My husband and I met with Rabbi Paul Kipnes before to explain the difficulties we had been experiencing. From the moment walked into Or Ami, we felt at home. They not only have programs for special needs children, they embrace them. I remember when Rabbi Paul said, “It’s not a matter of if he can become bar mitzvah, it’s how. Know that he will become a bar mitzvah.” Alex loves Or Ami, where he feels he belongs.

I honestly can’t say enough wonderful things about Congregation Or Ami and the warmth they have shared with our family. We feel very lucky to be part of such an amazing place.

Joeli Gutfleisch, Westlake Village

A New College Prep Course

The rise of anti-Israel activities in academia around the world begs for an effective strategy to prepare Jewish students to fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on campuses before they go to college (“Another Mutation of the Anti-Semitism Virus — or Just Ignorance?” Feb. 19). Getting Jewish teens to Israel en masse, followed by Israel-advocacy training in local communities, before they go to college is the only shot we have to build an army of “boots on the ground,” of college-bound, pro-Israel activists. We owe it to prepare our Jewish youth for what awaits on college campuses.

Birthright Israel is in a position to help fund the most practical solution to this most pressing, urgent need facing the Jewish people. Word is Birthright Israel has unfilled seats and registration is open-ended, implying registration is down. If Birthright is not filling seats, it should do the responsible thing and serve as a funding source for Jewish communities to run trips to Israel.

We all agree that our kids need us and Israel needs us. Yet, Birthright Israel leaders fail to recognize the only solution at hand. Birthright should step up to the plate and fulfill its divine purpose and stated vision to “strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish communities and solidarity with Israel by providing a 10-day trip to Israel for young Jewish people.”

Robert Israel Lappin via email

Spotlighting Baron’s L.A. Connection

I enjoyed Rob Eshman’s story on Marty Baron (“Marty Baron’s Crusade,” Feb. 19), for whom I worked many years at the L.A. Times when I was a reporter and editor there. But was there a reason you didn’t mention his long tenure — I think it was 17 years — at the Times? For what it’s worth, he was a great editor and it was unfortunate that he never made it to the helm of the Times. Also, as you seemed to suggest with the “smile” references, he is in fact a very good guy with a good heart — it just takes a little while to discover that. Nice job, and all the best to you.

Stu Silverstein via email

Iran and the World

I believe David Suissa doesn’t present the whole picture in his comments that many Americans believe President Barack Obama got swindled in his nuclear deal with Iran (“The Lure of Trump: No More Rip-Offs,” Feb. 19).

Suissa fails to point out — and perhaps many of these “angry Americans” he mentions don’t realize — that the Iran nuclear agreement was ratified not just by the United States, but also by the so-called P5+1, plus the European Union. The Washington Post on Sept. 10, 2015, contains a jointly written editorial by Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and David Cameron regarding their support for the deal. Leon Panetta, who has been very critical of Obama in other instances, also wrote an editorial in the L.A. Times indicating his support.

I also do not share Suissa’s optimism regarding Donald Trump›s negotiating skills. Trump, in his business dealings, has the advantage of a large asset base and a significant income stream, and is in an excellent position to be a strong negotiator. On the international stage, walking away from a deal may not be an option, and we have no idea about his ability or willingness to compromise with foreign leaders (or members of Congress, for that matter), many of whom are also skillful negotiators and may not have any strong motivation to reach an agreement.

Lewis T. Rosenthal, Los Angeles

correction

A Moving and Shaking article (Feb. 19) incorrectly named Lisa Feldman as a member of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center. Feldman is a congregant of Temple Beth Am, where she also serves as a member of the board of officers.

Donald Trump has a white supremacist problem

Donald Trump has a white supremacist problem. The only question is whether he will ignore it, deny it or do something about it.

Trump has changed a lot of the rules in the campaign game, but one law he hasn’t broken is this: When you say divisive, nasty things, you empower divisive, nasty people.

Organizations that track hate crimes against Jews and others have been following what we can call the Trump Effect for the past year, and have compelling evidence that it is real.

White nationalist leaders including Jared Taylor and former Klansman David Duke have endorsed Trump. On Vanguard News Network, the largest white supremacist website, Trump is regularly referred to as “Glorious Leader.” Bloggers compare him to Hitler, treating him like the Second Coming of the Third Reich. In January, William Johnson, leader of the white supremacist American Freedom Party, paid for a series of robocalls in Iowa in support of Trump. Johnson convened a 2015 white power political event in Bakersfield at which Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Youth Network gave a speech blaming Jews for destroying the white race.

“Donald Trump’s demonizing statements about Latinos and Muslims have electrified the radical right,” Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote in his group’s 2015 report.

Instead of distancing himself from such supporters, Trump has retweeted their hate posts — then denied knowing he did so. He has used neo-Nazi statistics on black-on-white hate crime as his own, and has cited bogus polls by anti-Muslim hate groups, like ACT for America, claiming that a quarter of American Muslims support violent jihadists.

Jonathan Greenblatt, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League, put it to me as judiciously as possible.

“It’s very worrisome to see the convergence of that crowd and a mainstream candidate,” he said. 

Yes, of course, Trump’s popularity extends far beyond the fringe. He has support among great numbers of fairly mainstream Tea Party types — something that is no less frightening. And there are plenty of people who disagree with his hateful statements but love his non-P.C. approach, or just find him entertaining. They don’t care whether Trump has the answers, they just care that he has the attitude. 

All that is scary enough, but understandable in the context of an electorate on both the left and right that is fed up with politics as usual.

But what’s beyond the pale are the truly sick, dangerous forces Trump has unleashed, the poison he has uncorked.

“His platform’s great and just the right mix, this is the will of the majority,” wrote a frequent blogger on Vanguard News Network who goes by the name Joe Smith. “And that’s why ALL the Jews are boycotting him (Univision, Comcast/NBC, Macy’s, all owned by Jews). Jews’ attack dogs are also getting into the fray making their masters happy.”

There have always been right-wing voices that veer toward outright racism and feed the anti-Semitic fantasies of sad, white men. The ’80s brought us Pat Buchanan, for instance.

But two things set Trump far apart from his predecessors: the rise of talk radio and social media, which provide an unlimited echo chamber for hate, and Trump himself, who with his money and marketing genius, has now all but run away with the nomination.

Meanwhile, the revitalized network of white supremacists, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis that Trump inspires poses as big if not bigger threa to the average American than ISIS. Over the past two decades, these hate groups have planned and/or perpetrated dozens of attacks, killings and plots against the Jewish community, among others. According to a report in The New York Times, Islam-inspired terror attacks accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 1/2 years. Meanwhile, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, with 254 fatalities.  While some sources dispute how these numbers are tallied, a survey of 372 police and sheriff's departments nationwide found that 74 percent of the law officers view antigovernment violence as the greatest source of  violent extremism, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence.

Nearly all media outlets have given Trump a pass for helping to stoke these fires. Not one debate moderator has confronted Trump about it. 

So, who will hold Trump accountable?

It won’t be the Republican establishment, which for seven fat years was more than happy to let Trump build his political brand and undermine the Democrats by stoking racist theories about President Barack Obama’s nationality. It won’t be Jewish Republican donors, now moving on from Jeb Bush. Most of those won’t have anything to do with Trump, and in any case, he doesn’t need anyone’s money or advice. And it won’t be the Democrats, whose worries will just be dismissed as partisan.

That leaves only one possible source of hope.

Trump’s grandchildren.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism before marrying real estate scion Jared Kushner in 2009, so she and her two children, Arabella, who is 4, and Joseph, who is 2, are Jewish.

Does Trump understand he is inspiring the very people who want to see his grandchildren dead? Does he remember the 2014 attack on a Jewish Community Center in Kansas that left three people dead, perpetrated by a devoted contributor to the Vanguard News Network, the same network that refers to Trump as its “Glorious Leader”? Why is Trump not publicly rejecting them? Why is he not backtracking on the divisive racial comments he’s made, the ones that bring these lowlifes and rejects firmly into his camp?

Call me naive, but I still believe in the power of a grandchild to melt a grandparent’s heart. I believe that one day soon, Trump will look into Arabella’s and Joseph’s eyes and see what a dangerous path he’s on. We’re counting on you, kids. Good luck. 

What 5 Questions Should reporters ask Donald Trump?  Click here.

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

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This entry was edited on Feb 26, 2016 to reflect the fact that experts dispute the exact numbers of right- and left-wing versus Islamic extremist-inspired violence in the United States. 

‘Spotlight’ on Marty Baron’s crusade

The Academy Award-nominated drama “Spotlight” tells how a team of Boston Globe journalists uncovered rampant child sexual abuse by priests and the cover-up by the Catholic Church. The clash of institutions is high drama, but the movie’s most powerful human moments come from the istruggles the journalists confront as insiders and outsiders. 

The Globe’s Catholic reporters must face the fact that, because of their own Boston Catholic backgrounds, they ignored just how deep and widespread the abuse was. Their editor, Marty Baron, must deal with the antagonism of those who see him as a Jewish interloper on an anti-Church crusade. 

But when I met the real-life Baron last week, it quickly became apparent that while, yes, he’s indeed Jewish, his crusade has nothing to do with it.

It’s all about being a journalist. 

In fact, Baron didn’t know he stood out as the first Jewish editor of the Boston Globe until he saw himself in “Spotlight.”

Actor Liev Schreiber plays Baron as the gruff, humorless boss who pushes the Globe’s investigative team to go beyond individual stories of abuse to reveal the system that allowed it to persist.

The Church defenders whose feathers he ruffles don’t let him forget that he’s not one of them.  At their first meeting, Boston Cardinal Bernard Law gives him a welcome gift: a catechism.

That emphasis on the fictional Baron’s Jewishness caught the real Baron by surprise. He said as much during a discussion Feb. 9 at the Pacific Palisades home of Austin and Virginia Beutner, where he spoke about the movie along with “Spotlight” co-screenwriter Josh Singer and Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism.

“People asked me why focus on the fact that he’s Jewish,” Singer said to the hundred or so guests gathered in the Beutners’ tented back patio.  “I said, ‘Well, Boston focused on it.’ ”

But Baron, who is now executive editor of the Washington Post, said he wasn’t aware his own religion was an issue. No one mentioned it to his face, though the cardinal really did give him a very heavy copy of the catechism (the exact copy used in the movie).

“I actually considered that maybe I should read this,” Baron said. “But … it’s a really thick book. I figured I got other things to do.”   

Baron laughed — yes, newsflash — he laughed. The real-life Baron, who looks like he could be Schreiber’s older brother, has a warm, if not ready, smile. 

“There are a few friends who say I have a sense of humor,” Baron said, proving he does, indeed, have one. 

Six weeks after he walked into the Globe’s newsroom, terrorists struck the World Trade Center on 9/11. And then came the Church investigation.  

“It was a pretty tense time,” Baron explained. “And for me it was kind of a lonely time. I was not at my most joyful. Someone at the alt weekly in town asked someone at the Globe what I was all about. They said I was about, ‘the joyless pursuit of excellence.’ ”

He unleashed a big smile at that one.

So, how Jewish is this outsider?  In an interview after the public discussion, he told me his mother was born in pre-state Palestine. His father fled Germany in 1936 for Palestine, as well, where he met Baron’s mother. The couple immigrated to Paris in 1952, then moved to Florida.  Baron was born in 1954 and raised in Tampa. He considers himself, “reform, but fairly nonobservant.”

“It’s very deep roots,” he said.

Was he worried that his being Jewish might color people’s perceptions of the story?

“I did think about that,” Baron said. “But what was I going to do? Not pursue the story? That was not an option.” 

Baron put his trust in the men and women reporting it.

“They were great journalists,” he said. “I was quite confident that they would be careful in how they approached the story, and my job was to ultimately read what they ended up coming up with and offer my thoughts.”

After the abuse story broke, Baron encountered some isolated accusations that he was biased by his religion, but overall he received more gratitude than condemnation.

“In the end, people weren’t angry at us,” Baron said.  “They were angry at the Church.”

At a time when serious journalism faces a multi-front battle against clickbait, declining revenues and corporate gobble-ups, the real crusade, Baron stressed, was not against the Church, or any institution, but for serious, independent journalism.

“I think there’s been too much time spent trying to worry about, ‘What does our audience want?’ ” Baron said of today’s media environment. What they crave, he said, is the authenticity that comes from deep, straight reporting. 

“Now that we’ve actually found the facts, we’re going to lay them out for you, and we’re going to tell them to you squarely,” Baron said of the best journalism.  “I think people want that. They appreciate that.”  

Austin Beutner, who was publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune before being pushed out by the Tribune overlords, called “Spotlight” a good example of “what it is we’re losing” when newsrooms are cut and newspapers close down. 

Baron agreed. What guided him in directing his paper’s Spotlight team had nothing to do with his faith in Judaism, but in journalism.

That’s what inspires him, and it’s what he sees in the new generation of reporters in his newsroom.

“They’re not coming into this business to be famous,” he said. “You know, to have a movie made about them.”

Then Baron smiled, again. 

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

 

______________

 

Corrections: This story was changed to make the following corrections. The 9/11 attacks occured six weeks after Marty Baron entered the newsroom, not six months. Mr. Baron described himself as “reform, but nonobservant.”  

Fighting Nice: Rob Eshman and David Suissa – Wed., Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Stephen S. Wise Temple

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Letters to the editor: Women in the bible, Cruz control and more

Donors and Pinatas

Rob Eshman’s column (“Cruz Control,” Jan. 22) was brilliant! More Jews should read about Ted Cruz and others like him who share an erstwhile “love” for Israel … Donors and pinatas … excellent description … Thank you. Your columns (mostly) never fail to surprise and inform your readers. 

Sandra Berube via email

Trumping Trump Together

I just caught Rob Eshman’s column, “Jews Against Trump” (Dec. 11).  Let me offer you another Yiddish/Hebrew reaction to your article: “Mazel tov!

Daniel K. Weir, Washington, D.C.

Political Penance in Iowa

I read Marty Kaplan’s piece (“The Idiocy of the Iowa Caucuses,” Jan. 29), and as a lifelong Iowan, I have to say (other than the headline), I couldn’t agree more. Clearly the math isn’t in favor of Iowa going first and, as far as “tradition,” Iowa going first is about as historically significant as a Gerald Ford campaign button.

Iowans (other than media owners) are sick to death of the TV commercials and phone calls at dinner. We look forward to the end of every four-year cycle like some sort of existential springtime when we celebrate the end of long-suffering misery.

We’re nice people. How did this happen to us?  What did we do to make God so angry?

David Miller, Mount Vernon, Iowa

Who Is the Prototypical Jewish Woman?

Danielle Berrin (“Real Housewives of Politics,” Jan. 29) assumes that the public reputation of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin changed from glowing to glowering based on the infidelities of her husband, Anthony Weiner. Berrin writes that Abedin in this regard is just a victim like her boss, Hillary Clinton. 

Berrin gives not a single shred of evidence where Clinton has been insulted over her husband’s womanizing nor the very credible accusations of sexual abuse, including rape. Mrs. Clinton has rightly been grilled over her claim to be a feminist who believes that any woman claiming sexual predations should be heard, while she personally has ridiculed, dismissed and even threatened women who have attested that Bill Clinton sexually intimidated or assaulted them. It is a fair question.

Berrin then makes the astonishing leap in claiming that Jewish tradition also has a record of “women-shaming,” ignorantly stating that Eve and Lilith are “the Bible’s two most prototypical women.” Lilith appears nowhere in the Five Books of Moses, and is referred to only in the Talmud as a wild and harsh precursor to Eve. This is a repugnant form of “Jewish-shaming.” The truly prototypical biblical Jewish women are Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel, Ruth, Esther, Deborah, Miriam, Yael and others. Their heroism, bravery, moral clarity, wisdom and actions of self-sacrifice are lauded throughout our sacred writings and the commentaries. However, this doesn’t fit Berrin’s narrow and uninformed worldview.

Judy Gruen via email

Berrin responds: If I failed to give a shred of evidence about the ways Hillary Clinton has been maligned because of her husband, forgive me. The examples are numerous and unceasing — “She’s not a victim, she was an enabler,” Donald Trump told Fox just last month — I assumed I didn’t have to state the obvious. 

To claim that Jewish models of women are only heroic makes us feel good, but is not faithful to the negative stereotypes that have existed throughout Jewish history in texts written almost entirely by men. Lilith, who appears in the Bible in Isaiah, and throughout other traditional sources, is just one example of a biblical woman who needs to be reinterpreted and reclaimed. 

Sometimes, the view that wants to see only the best in our tradition — and our political leaders — can appear narrow and uninformed. 

Cool Cover

Your cover story on cool Jewish LA (“50 Reasons Why L.A. is America’s Coolest Jewish City, Jan. 15) was great: a nice blend of humor and real information. I thought your cover was one of your best ever; really capturing something of our essence and aspirations. Please identify the three people in the photo. Who are those cool Jewgelinos?

I would only amend your Happy Minyan entry (No. 35) to read that the “Simpson’s” connection is cool (though still no appearance by Rabbi Krustofsky), but what is really cool is that we get to hear a thought-provoking, inspirational drash from David Sacks most every Shabbat and Yehuda Solomon’s amazing davening.

Jeffrey Hutter, via email

Editor’s note: The shofar-blowers at Nashuva’s annual tashlich ceremony on Venice Beach are, from left, Myra Meskin, Jared Stein and an unidentified improviser.

Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy wonk

Earlier this month, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed for the Jewish Journal.

That led me to wonder: Did Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton really  write an op-ed for the Jewish Journal?

Sure, the Journal, with millions of monthly readers around the world, is now a global community paper. Last August, the White House tweeted that the Jewish Journal is “one of the most widely read Jewish publications online,” which is true, especially if you don’t include The New York Times.

But still, I had a hard time envisioning Hillary Clinton sitting at her desk in a Hanover, N.H., hotel room, pouring another whiskey, tossing one after another crumpled-up draft on the floor and telling her assistant she’d call Bill back after she’s nailed this damn Jewish Journal thing.

A more likely scenario is that someone well versed in foreign policy and perfectly synced to Clinton’s point of view on Israel, ISIS and Iran sent us the draft. Not Hillary, but Hillary-adjacent.

That’s why, when I interviewed Laura Rosenberger the following week, one of my questions was: Did you write the op-ed?

Rosenberger is the foreign-policy adviser to the Clinton campaign. When I asked her how many paid staff are on her team, she allowed herself a laugh. The answer is: Laura Rosenberger. Her role is a window not just into the leviathan that is the modern major presidential campaign, but also into the foreign policy thinking of someone who may very well be our next president.

Rosenberger is 35, friendly, direct and familiar, the voice of someone you went to camp with, but probably smarter.

She describes herself as a wonk with a social-activist bent, which she credits to her religious background.

“So if you look at foreign policy,” said Rosenberger, who, like most millennials, is prone to start her most important sentences with “So,” “many different issues have inequality sort of at their core. And I would say that, for me, actually, I do think that comes from my Jewish roots. Passover is my favorite holiday, because I find very much a driving mission for myself in this, the obligation of the Jewish people who have been free from oppression ourselves to root out oppression wherever we see it.”

Rosenberger grew up in the South Hills suburbs of Pittsburgh, where her mother helped found the Jewish Community Center. The family belonged to the Reform movement: Temple Emanuel, travel to Israel with Young Judea, and summer each year at Emma Kaufmann Camp.

“I think we tripled the Jewish population of West Virginia every summer,” she said.

As her senior year at Penn State began, Rosenberger was torn between working in domestic or foreign policy. That’s when she turned on the television and watched terrorists take down the twin towers.

“This will sound a little bit cheesy,” she said, “but the honest truth is, I woke up on Sept. 12, and I said, ‘This is what I need to do with my life.’ To do everything possible to ensure that that never, ever happens again.”

After earning a master’s degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University’s School of International Service, she landed a two-year fellowship at the State Department. And when that was done, she stayed — taking on positions in the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs and on the Korea desk. Promoted to special assistant to the undersecretary for political affairs, she traveled to Cambodia to work on Khmer Rouge war crimes and reconciliation. Rosenberger went on to manage a political unit that provided support and briefing materials for diplomats involved in the U.S. and Chinese bilateral relationship.

China was the subject of Rosenberger’s first meeting with Secretary of State Clinton. Clinton surprised the new hire by asking specifically about individual Chinese dams on the Tibetan plateau.

“She knew their names,” Rosenberger said. “And she knew the names of the rivers they were on, and she knew the larger strategic implications of allowing the Chinese to control the water resources in the region, and the implications of that for South Asia — particularly India.”

The combination of Clinton’s grasp of the details, as well as her ability to see the big picture, wowed Rosenberger. When Rosenberger’s boss at State, Jake Sullivan, joined the Clinton campaign as its policy director, he asked Rosenberger to come on board.

While Clinton hits the campaign trail, Rosenberger divides her time between Washington, D.C., and New York City. 

Her 18-hour days begin around 6 a.m., when she reviews the morning’s briefing paper that was prepared even earlier by campaign interns. She emails that to Clinton, then spends the rest of the day meeting with campaign staff and advisers from dozens of foreign-policy advisory teams, grouped by region. She works with senior staff and the communications team to help convey what Clinton thinks. Then there are fundraisers, public speaking and research. She collapses around midnight, sleeps a few hours and starts over. I asked if she had a partner, children. She does not.

“I have colleagues who do this with young children,” she said. “They’re the ones that really amaze me.”

As for the occasional op-ed, such as the one for the Jewish Journal, she refused to take credit. It’s a very collaborative effort, she said, and Clinton herself is engaged at every step.

“But surely someone had to type it,” I said.

Rosenberger stuck to her guns.

“It’s a collaborative effort.”

I ran through the main points of the op-ed, the stances we got the most reaction to.

I asked whether the former secretary was having any second thoughts about the Iran nuclear deal she supported.

“No,” Rosenberger said. “She was very clear that the deal isn’t perfect, but she believes that, on balance, it is best, looking at the various options that we have. We’re in a better position to address those activities when dealing with an Iran that does not have a nuclear weapon than we would be if we were dealing with an Iran that has a nuclear weapon.”

Then what would President Hillary Clinton do about Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles without derailing the nuclear agreement?

Rosenberger said Clinton would use sanctions to target the “bad actors, the individuals, the companies, the networks that are facilitating these kinds of activities.”

I asked if Clinton would restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I think she’s very realistic about the fact that it’s a difficult time right now on these issues,” Rosenberger said. “At the same time, she continues to believe that a two-state solution is the only sustainable path, and thinks that we really need to make sure we continue to look at ways to do that in the future. I don’t think that she has any illusions about how easy or hard this would be.”

In a campaign season dominated by the lack of nuance (“We’ll bomb the desert into glass”) and the sense that candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders speak directly from the gut, no advisers allowed, I wonder whether Clinton’s — and Rosenberger’s — predilection for nuance, depth and collaboration will help or hurt.

These days, Rosenberger sees very little of her former boss at the State Department. But in Rosenberger’s best-case scenario, I asked, would she want to accompany Hillary Clinton into the White House, maybe celebrate Passover, her favorite holiday, there?

Rosenberger tried for a rehearsed answer — something about what an honor it’s been to serve — then stopped herself.

“Let’s get through Iowa first.”

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Letters to the editor: Being wrong, understanding Islamophobia and more

Benefit of the Doubt?

David Suissa has written a very interesting column on how we know what we claim to know (“What if I’m Wrong?” Jan. 8). He lists three reasons why Journal columnist Dennis Prager does not seem to express any outward doubt about his views, but I think he missed a fourth reason. 

I have found that the essential difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives think their views fall into the realm of truth and fact, while liberals understand that most issues fall into the realm of interpretation and opinion. Let me offer three examples.

Religious fundamentalists believe their views of the Bible constitute truth, not interpretation. Furthermore, they believe they alone know what God wants, thinks and feels, and that God is on their side alone. 

Second, Constitutional fundamentalists believe they alone know the correct intent of the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution. For instance, they believe their understanding of the Second Amendment is inherently correct and does not constitute interpretation, and therefore any attempt to regulate guns is inherently unconstitutional.

Third, conservatives think they alone know what makes America great. When they object to Obama’s views, it’s not just because they disagree with him, it’s because they are convinced they possess the unique truth about what makes America great. 

If Prager thinks like most conservatives, I don’t believe he has many doubts about his views.

Michael Asher, Valley Village 

Stepping Up for the Future

I love this description of the Iranian people with its “culture and disposition, its tolerant, forward-looking, gracious character” (“Top This,” Jan. 8). I have witnessed all these qualities in my own family who migrated to Israel from Iran. But I would go further than holding up the success stories of Iranian Muslims in the U.S. as models for what the people of Iran could have achieved. I would challenge any tolerant, gracious character in the Muslim world, Arab Iranian or otherwise, to solve many universal problems that even the U.S. has trouble solving. Simple example: global warming. What if the Muslims who made billions of dollars in oil revenue attempted to invest some of this money in developing solar energy? What if they would be the ones to show the world that they can think of improving the lives of future generations?

Sarah Bassilian via jewishjournal.com

Just a Vessel

The last few issues of the Jewish Journal contain several criticizing letters to the editor.

Basically, the letters state that [Rob Eshman] the publisher and editor destroyed the Journal. 

I have a completely different opinion. I think the Journal became better and I want to encourage the him to follow the journalistic path he selected.

American Jews are tremendously divided at this time. There are conservative and liberal Jews. There are pro-AIPAC, pro-J Street and Jew-hating Jews. Certainly there are Jews of other orientations I am not aware of.

All of them have different political and social views and goals. The Journal has no chance of making peace between them and pleasing all of them. I strongly believe, following the selected direction, the Journal will receive many letters from satisfied readers complimenting its job in the future.

Igor Krigman, Lynnfield, Mass.

Understanding Islamophobia

Thank you for publishing Rabbi Reuven Firestone’s column about Islamophobia (“You Are an Islamaphobe,” Jan. 1). Before reading it, I would have thought that fears about Islam were the product of, in 2015 alone, the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the attack on HyperCacher market, the shootings in Copenhagen one month later, the shooting in Garland, Texas, in May, shootings in Chattanooga in July, the stabbing of three Jews outside a Paris synagogue (October), the stabbing of a Jewish teacher in Paris (November), the mass violence in Paris (November), the San Bernardino shootings (December), and the mass sexual assault in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, not to mention the almost daily attacks in Israel.

Fortunately, Rabbi Firestone corrected this misimpression, so we now know that concerns about Islamic violence are caused by a poem, the Song of Roland, written over 900 years ago.

Mitchell Keiter, Beverly Hills

Proud Pedalers  

I congratulate Claudia Boyd-Barrett on completing her 29-mile bike adventure on Pacific Coast Highway and Highway 101 (“Swell on Wheels,” Jan. 1). And I thank her for composing and sharing such an inspiring, joyful rendition of the ride, along with those detailed, “idiot-proof” directions and tips. Count me as one who’d like to follow her lead.

I’ll certainly share the article with out-of-town guests for an activity option during their respective Southern California stays.

David Walstad, Studio City

corrections

In the Jan. 8 obituary for Teresa Susskind (Teresa Susskind, Women’s Royal Naval Service Member,94, Jan.8) Rob Pettler was listed incorrectly as Susskind’s husband. Pettler is her son-in-law and is married to her daughter, Pamela.

Channeling the spirit of Heschel to combat homelessness

If you go to synagogue around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you will hear about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

It was Heschel who walked with King across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to demonstrate his solidarity with the civil rights movement. It was Heschel who said, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.”

If there were awards given for the most overused phrases at Jewish banquets, the top three would have to be 1. “tikkun olam”; 2. “If you’ve saved one, life you’ve saved the world”; and 3. Heschel’s “praying feet.” I suspect fundraisers have gotten more mileage out of those feet than Heschel ever did.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. A culture could turn worse things into cliches than the imperative to repair the world, or save a life, or stand for justice. But I wonder whether we’re running the grave risk of turning Heschel into an American-Jewish idol, someone who we put so high up on a pedestal we don’t even bother to try to emulate him. Instead, we become self-satisfied, as if the miles Heschel walked with King count on our own Fitbits. They don’t. In congratulating ourselves on our past, we neglect the work that must be done in the present. 

I am thinking not in terms of civil rights, but of the cause that engaged King in the last two years of his life: inequality.

This country has made great strides in civil rights since Selma, and while such progress isn’t inevitable, it has been steady. Meanwhile, America has grown more unequal. In his final speeches and last days before he was murdered in 1968, King pointed precisely to income inequality as an issue even more intractable than race. 

“The emergency we now face is economic, and it is a desperate and worsening situation,” King wrote in “The Trumpet of Conscience,” a collection of his speeches published in 1968.

“For the 35 million poor people in America … there is a kind of strangulation in the air. In our society it is murder, psychologically, to deprive a man of a job or an income. … Now, millions of people are being strangled in that way. … And it is getting worse, as the gap between the poor and the ‘affluent society’ increases.”

Thirty-five million, Rev. King? Today it is 50 million.

I know there are Jewish organizations, including local groups such as Jewish Family Service of L.A. and Jewish Vocational Services, to national groups such as Bend the Arc and Mazon, that work daily to alleviate the symptoms of inequality or address the issue at a policy level, such as fighting to increase the minimum wage or preserve funding for food stamps.

I am not saying we aren’t doing anything. Synagogues such as Valley Beth Shalom, B’nai David-Judea and Leo Baeck Temple work hard on this issue. I’m saying we can do much, much more.

Think about it: We American Jews have a degree of wealth and freedom unprecedented in Jewish history. We have the means to make big social changes and the power to implement them. Our actions don’t even come close to our potential.

Take Los Angeles. The most obvious symptom of inequality here is homelessness. It has increased 12 percent in just the last two years. The number of “homeless homes” — tents, makeshift encampments and vehicles — has gone up 85 percent, to 9,535, according to biennial figures from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. L.A. leads the nation in homelessness.

This week, one of those homeless, Barbara Brown, died rain-soaked and wrapped in a wet blanket on a piece of plastic on Skid Row. She was 60. The cause of death was exposure. Brown was so far gone that she refused to care. But most homeless people, like the one my colleague David Suissa visited (see page 8), just need solid help through a hard time.

The Jewish community bears no special blame in creating the homeless problem, but it does have a special responsibility to address it. Why? Because that’s why we exist. We aren’t Jews just to maintain Jewish life. We aren’t Jews just to celebrate Passover. We aren’t Jews just to defend Israel, or to throw cool parties so we can meet other Jews. We are Jews in order to stop a 60-year-old woman from dying because it rains.

So it’s time to think big. This week, a report from the city administrative officer said it will cost $1.85 billion over the next 10 years to end homelessness in Los Angeles. We can help marshal and unlock those resources. As Jared Sichel points out in our cover story, 23 people on the L.A. Business Journal’s list of the 50 wealthiest  Angelenos are Jewish, with a combined worth of $65 billion. Never let anyone tell you our problem is a lack of resources. I’m talking about focusing our considerable resources, influence and energies on one big thing — homelessness — and fixing it. 

You want to inspire the next generation of Jews? You want to combat anti-Semitism? You want to attract the unaffiliated? Demonstrate what the power of ethics, faith and community can do.

What Heschel did with King was inspirational. What we can do, here and now, could be transformational.

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Letters to the editor: Mensches, Prager, optimism and Islamaphobia

Out with Outrage 

Just wanted to say thanks for the “defense” and boost of optimism in Rob Eshman’s recent column (“In Defense of Optimism,” Jan. 1), and for all the work he does through the Jewish Journal — for readers, for the Jewish community, and this year, for my family, by posting my piece for Father’s Day. I appreciate your work! Happy New Year. 

Lauri Mattenson, UCLA

Could We Do Better?

I am a 70-year-old woman and a member of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center. Years ago, I listened to Dennis Prager at PJTC when he was just beginning to sell his books.  I have read some of his books and listened to him at various locations over the years, as well as on the radio. Now I am feeling that he should not be a contributor to Jewish Journal. I do not object to his article about transgender people because it is controversial, or because I do not agree with it, but because in his article he embarrassed and disrespected Rabbi Becky Silverstein. There is no question that embarrassing someone in public is a grievous sin, and though Prager was given the opportunity to answer all the letters generated by his original article, this matter was not dealt with by Prager. Not only did he disrespect and embarrass our rabbi, but also any transgender individual and our synagogue, too, by extension. He should not be given a place from which to do this, and it is your responsibility to the Jewish community to take care of this. There are many younger Orthodox men who could do better than Dennis Prager.

Carol Grant via email

I love reading Dennis Prager’s wise and common-sense column. I have for years. His views, unfortunately, are lacking in today’s politically correct environment. I will continue reading him for years to come.

Laurence Gelman via email

New Year, New Lessons

Danielle Berrin’s discussion of the searing new Hungarian film “Son of Saul” in the first issue of the Jewish Journal for 2016 is an important column to read, even for those who cannot bear to watch such a film (“Seeking a Rabbi at Auschwitz”). Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, it is never too late to learn new lessons from the Holocaust.

Berrin mentioned the documentary “Shoah” in her column, possibly the most vital film and documentary ever put together, by Claude Lanzmann. (I would be remiss if I did not also mention “The Sorrow and the Pity” by Marcel Ophuls (1969) and “Kapo” by Gillo Pontecorvo (1960).)

My family and I were privileged to hear Walter Bodlander, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor, speak for an hour at the Museum of Tolerance on Dec. 30 to a packed auditorium. The hushed, respectful silence of the diverse crowd gives great optimism for lessons still being learned into the future. Walter’s life, from growing up as a German Jew in Breslau to serving in the U.S. Army coming ashore at Normandy and seeing Dachau liberated, covers so many of the pages of history that we never want to forget. And, lo and behold, he was profiled in the Journal on May 21, 2015!

Ben Nethercot, Topanga

When Rationalizing Isn’t Reasonable

Whatever is driving the rage, groups like ISIS and Boko Haram stick to radical Islam because it gives them moral grounds to do inexplicable, violent acts (“You Are an Islamaphobe,” Jan. 1). They are not inventing these acts out of thin air, these acts are sanctioned by the Quran and Hadis. Of course, many Muslims distance themselves from these groups, but do not condemn them strong enough. The resulting picture in the media is that Islam is a violent movement. Until such time, when enough Muslims around the world develop the guts and speak up against this interpretation and seek reform, the violent picture remains — and rightly so. Living in the past and trying to rationalize this behavior, as the author is doing, is not going to help.

Solie Nosrat via jewishjournal.com

Mensches, Here and Abroad

I recently returned to Los Angeles from Israel and read the article about Michael Ullman (“The Mensch List,” Jan. 1). There are several similarities between Ullman and Joseph Gitler, founder and chairman of Leket Israel, as they are both attorneys and help provide food for those in need. (According to both our tour educator and Nechama Namal, Leket’s field administrator, 25-30 percent of Israel’s population lives at or below the poverty level). 

Last week, when I was in Israel, I volunteered (picked clementines) for Leket and had a great experience. It was rewarding to know I was giving back to Israelis in need. (There is no cost to volunteer.) 

Leket Israel can use more volunteers and I am hoping you can spread the word. 

Marilyn Stern, Los Angeles

Letters to the editor: Wage gaps, weight loss and Trump

Playing the Trump Card

Thank you for the balanced reporting on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to Donald Trump (Dec. 18). I was at a Chanukah party recently and two guests baited me into a political discussion about Trump. After trying to end the conversation, the guests expressed the point of view that Trump is not racist and that he has “beitzim, which our country needs.”

My response was that Trump’s rhetoric about Latino and Muslim immigrants is reminiscent of the populist anti-Semitism of pre-World War II Europe and that Trump’s jingoism also has been publicly embraced by America’s extreme racist organizations. 

When I went to sleep that night, I felt a profound sadness that these two Jews, one a child of a post-World War II European refugee, the other a Yemenite-Israeli immigrant, would fall for the phony populism of Trump. Have we forgotten the travails of both the European and Mizrahi Jews suffered as a result of authoritarian governments?

Thank God for the Jewish Journal who renewed my faith in our politically diverse Jewish community and for reminding me that our community, including the prime minister of Israel, is willing to stand up for the core ideals of Chanukah — embracing light over darkness and fighting for religious freedom. 

Paul Hackner, Los Angeles

Donald Trump is not Hitler (“Is Trump Hitler?” Dec. 18). Trump is primarily a salesman. His main sales item is Donald Trump, whom he wants the American public to elect as the next American president. His sales approach is to use his considerable vocal ability to convince voters that under his leadership, America can easily and quickly solve any political and economic problem America faces.   

A key sales tactic he uses is to verbally attack (sometimes directly, sometimes by insinuation) an individual or a class of people who are disliked or feared by portions of the American public. Among the most glaring examples are (1) his support of the claim that President Barack Obama was not born in America, even after most Americans thought otherwise and (2) Mexico was not curbing illegal immigration from Mexico to America in order to rid Mexico of rapists. 

It is because of these factors that many Americans dislike the idea of Donald Trump becoming the next president of the United States.

Marc Jacobson, Los Angeles

The Jewish Journal should be embarrassed. Rob Eshman’s latest column is nothing more than thinly veiled ad hominem venom directed toward Donald Trump. To compare Trump to Hitler is yellow journalism at its most base level, and it would seem that Eshman is truly a master practitioner. He is an absolute disgrace.

Ron Southart, Marina del Rey

Big Salaries = Big Gaps

The article about CEO Salary Survey (“The Forward’s CEO Salary Survey: Good Statistics, Questionable Economics,” Dec. 18) left out the disparity between what the top guy (or gal) makes and what the staff makes. So many of these organizations pay bubkes (minimum wage) to their staff and also limit their hours to avoid paying benefits. This is unconscionable from our Jewish ethical perspective. These overcompensated leaders should be ashamed of themselves.

Sid Adelman via email

Everything in Moderation

I was perusing the Jewish Journal recently and came across Mark Schiff’s article (“Jews, Non-Jews and Weight Loss,” Dec. 18). I enjoyed reading about his long journey and struggle with weight, and the humor he used to describe it. 

I can relate to Schiff’s journey 100 percent. From his breastfeeding story to the politeness of friends and co-workers — I was reliving Schiff’s life as I was reading.

Where our journey separates is when and how he took charge. My aha moment was at my physical last June. My doctor, a nice Jewish guy and past president of a local synagogue, told me for the first time (after eight years of annual physicals), “You know, technically, you are medically obese.” That statement rocked my world. I knew I needed to begin my transformation, which I did a week later.

Where Schiff and I differ is that I have not given up one food I enjoy. For me, a 55-year-old who hates exercise with a passion and can eat half the challah on my way home on Fridays, I knew that the only way I was going to lose weight was to learn how to say “enough.” 

I recently visited my doctor for a six-month progress check-up. I have lost 40 pounds and am no longer medically obese, just medically overweight. The key for me was to eat less and learn how to say “enough.”

David Brook, Temple Aliyah, executive director

corrections

An obituary for Beth Hersh Goldsmith (Dec. 18) included a misspelled byline. The author is Tom Fields-Meyer.

The article “The Forward’s CEO Salary Survey: Good Statistics, Questionable Economics” (Dec. 18) stated that the formula used by The Forward to estimate overpayment was flawed, showing percentages of overpayment as 100 times more than what they should have been. The error stemmed from a temporary computer coding glitch, not the formula.

In defense of optimism

When I was learning Hebrew, I asked an Israeli friend the word for “optimistic.”

Optimi,” he said.

“There’s no native word?” I asked.

“Well,” he asked back, “why would we need one?”

It doesn’t come easy to us Jews, this thing called optimism. And this year we seem to be in a particularly dark mood. Anti-Semitism is rising in parts of Europe (again). A quarter of America’s Jewish college students report having been harassed because they’re Jewish. Terrorists continue to seek out Jewish targets here and abroad.

So it’s easy to look forward with dread, to gather in our nice homes and fine restaurants, in our safe neighborhoods and ornate banquet halls, and speak to one another about how we’re doomed and it’s all going to hell. 

But our predisposition to pessimism clouds our ability not just to see what is working, but to focus and build on it. You want to know the four words that will get you instantly ostracized from a Jewish conversation? “Things aren’t so bad.”

Go ahead, try saying them one day at your cocktail party or conference. Heads will turn. You’ll hear stifled laughter. People will whisper: “Who let that child out of his room?”

But here’s what you might point out about the year that was, in defense of optimism:

Big oil is hurting

For those of us who have been saying for decades that our dependence on foreign oil is the single greatest threat to our security and environment, this has been a very good year.

A year and a half ago, oil was selling for more than $100 a barrel. Now it is hanging on at $40. That has thrown exporters such as Venezuela, Russia and Saudi Arabia into dire straits, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of countries.

This week, Saudi Arabia released a 2016 budget that showed an $87 billion deficit. At this rate, the country will blow through its foreign currency reserves by 2020. The country that, as columnist Douglas Bloomfield has pointed out, has fewer female drivers than Israel has female fighter pilots, either will have to modernize or go back to the Bronze Age.

Alt energy is booming

One reason for the oil bust is the bull market in domestic production and alternative energy. The Climate Change Agreement signed in December in France by major powers and developing countries — one of the most hopeful stories of the decade, let alone the year — will energize an already flourishing market in wind, solar and other sustainable energy sources. 

Iran is stopped — for now

This week, Iran completed shipping the majority of its enriched uranium stock to Russia, fulfilling the first part of last summer’s historic agreement to deprive the Shiite theocracy of nuclear weapons. That means Iran’s breakout time to a nuke has gone from almost zero to nine months, and is expected to extend further. Yes, it also means Iran will get back $100 billion in frozen assets and can sell oil on the international market, but see No. 1 above.

And true, Iran might still cheat and wreak havoc, but so far we are safer than if the deal had fallen through and Iran raced to the bomb.

ISIS is losing

The publishers of Dabiq magazine were run out of the Iraqi city of Ramadi this week, and experts predict ISIS will not be able to hold on to the larger city of Mosul. Nothing is worse for recruitment than humiliating defeat. That inexorable march to the caliphate? Kaput.

Love is winning

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all states must allow same-sex marriages. From Ireland to Mexico to Japan, something that seemed so unlikely in 1990 has become so inevitable in 2015 (same with legalized pot, just saying). Popular culture has proudly led the way toward greater acceptance. Ten years ago a lesbian kiss on TV was groundbreaking; now television’s best show, “Transparent,” is expanding society’s embrace even more.

Terror is temporary

The year began badly. On Jan. 7, 2015, two Muslim terrorists in Paris killed 12 people and injured 11 others at the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper. The reaction was a display of unity across France and around the world. Terror has never and will never fully go away, but “Je suis Charlie” — “I am Charlie” — proved that societies have the power to survive and face it down.

The gun lobby is on the ropes

Up to and including San Bernardino, there were 57 mass shooting across the United States in 2015, incidents in which three or more people died in a spasm of gun violence. But these mass shootings have also invigorated the long-dormant gun control movement. “We’re seeing much more forceful political mobilization on the gun control issue than we had seen in decades,” Second Amendment expert Adam Winkler told me after the San Bernardino killings.

To recap: Things aren’t all bad. By any objective standard, Israel is stronger militarily and economically, and American Jews are more successful, free and influential today than at any time in our history. So let’s take a breath, relax and recite together in Yiddish:

Ven me zol Got danken far guts, volt nit zein kain tseit tsu baklogen zikh oif shlechts.

“If we thanked God for the good things, there wouldn’t be time to weep over the bad.”

Here’s to 2016.


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Letters to the editor: Syrian refugees, Beverly Hills Metro, L.A. Times and more

Syrian Refugees: Compassion or Common Sense?

With regard to Rob Eshman’s column “#WeAreNext” (Nov. 27), there have been very strong views expressed in the Jewish Journal that for the U.S. to reject Syrian refugees because of their Islamic faith would be both un-Jewish and un-American. I both accept and respect that view, especially as my own grandparents and father were forced to become refugees from Nazi Germany after Kristallnacht.
But idealism and sterling values are one thing. Pragmatism and reality can often, sadly, be another. Although it is true that in a perfect world we should welcome any refugee and offer him or her our assistance and care, we cannot be so blinded by our commitment to doing what is right that it results in consequences we later regret. At the very least, we should be entitled to ask tough questions. For example, why are most Islamic countries not offering to take in these Syrian refugees? Is it possible that jihadist groups are taking advantage of our generosity of spirit?  And if so, what should we do to protect ourselves? Would we be right to demand that refugees express some kind of commitment to democratic values, and to refuse entry to those who hate the United States, or democracy, or other faiths? 

Do these questions make anyone un-Jewish, or un-American? Personally, I think not. Sometimes standing up for what you believe requires nuance, flexibility, tough choices and reflective judgment. It is certainly never the case that one size fits all.

Rabbi Pini Dunner, Young Israel of North Beverly Hills

Is B.H. Fight With Metro B.S.?

The Jewish Journal’s quote of the week in the Nov. 20 issue, in reference to Beverly Hills’ conflict with Metro, was former County Supervisor (and Metro macher) Zev Yaroslavsky’s zinger: “Fighting Metro is not a construction project, it’s a destruction project.”

Oy gevalt.

There is so much arrogance and ignorance rolled into Yaroslavsky’s statement, it could easily give rise to a new portmanteau to describe the chutzpah: arrogrance.  

It is hard to know where to begin, though correcting a major deficiency in the article from which the quip was lifted would probably be a good start (“Budgets Grow, Tempers Shrink as B.H. Metro Fight Continues”). Beverly Hills has never tried to stop the subway. The sole issue for Beverly Hills has been the routing, which was suddenly changed to benefit a powerful developer donor, all in the face of ridership, transit time and cost factors that would favor the original route.

Ironically, it was Yaroslavsky himself who — against Metro staff’s recommendation — killed a mediated settlement, brokered by a retired superior court judge, which would have resolved all issues between Beverly Hills and Metro. Unfortunately, part of his legacy as one of the “five kings” seems to be the arrogrance of institutional bullying with the unique message, embodied in his quote above: Resistance is futile.

John Mirisch, Vice mayor, Beverly Hills

Journalistic Integrity

Thank you, Bill Boyarsky, for saying what dearly needs to be said publicly, even if it’s apparently falling on deaf ears back in Chicago (“Once-Great Los Angeles Times,” Nov. 27). The steady decline of the Los Angeles Times has been absolutely heartbreaking to see and watch. I can only hope that Eli Broad, et al., can somehow pry that once-great paper from Tribune Publishing Co.’s clutches before it’s too late, and breathe some new and sorely needed life into Southland journalism.

Donald Koepler via jewishjournal.com

A Word From a YULA Student

Thank you for the article about a gap year in Israel (“Filling the Gap: The Case for Post-High School Year in Israel,” Nov. 13). I strongly support that students should have a gap year in Israel and I believe more people should spend a year in Israel after high school.

It is sad that not enough people appreciate how a gap year can help them. A gap year would broaden the person’s perspective and increase the students’ appreciation for Israel and Judaism. I also believe that it would help smooth the transition from high school to college.

More colleges should support a gap year.

I hope this article raises awareness of the benefits of the gap year, and I look forward to taking a gap year in Israel.

Menachem Kornreich, YULA 

corrections

The article “U.S. Teen’s Murder in Israel Ripples Among L.A. Parents” (Nov. 27) incorrectly stated that Avishai Rabin is Jeffrey and Amy Rabin’s sixth child to do a gap year in Israel. He is their fourth child to do so.

A profile of comedy executive Brian Volk-Weiss (“When This Comedy Production Exec Describes His Life, He Is Totally Not Joking,” Nov. 27) should have stated that the company he runs, Comedy Dynamics, is one of Netflix’s top sources of stand-up comedy shows, not its top source. 

The Catholic Method

Just before the latest wave of religious fanaticism crashed against civilization, I was in Mexico City, talking about the last wave.

Not so long ago — in the long span of human history — the Catholic Church terrorized the Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Hindus and many other indigenous peoples in the lands under its control. The Inquisition, which lasted from the 11th to the 19th centuries, brought about the execution, torture and exile of countless innocents.

You can see a great movie about sexual abuse and the Church — “Spotlight” — but, so far, there hasn’t been a single decent movie about the Inquisition. So a long historical injustice that continues to influence our world lives on in the popular imagination as a really funny scene in a Monty Python comedy.

The Inquisition was initiated to weed out heretics, or what ISIS would call taqfir. It was preceded by the Crusades, which also killed thousands of Jews, and was followed by years of vicious anti-Semitism, including, in many instances, collusion with the Nazi regime.

Then the Church reversed course.

On Oct. 28, 1965, as part of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI issued Nostra Aetate, which rejected the charge of deicide and the accusation that Jews are “eternally cursed” by God for the Roman crucifixion of Jesus. In 624 words, the Church transformed itself. Nostra Aetate rejected all “hatred, persecutions, displays of ant-Semitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”

Nostra Aetate is the Gettysburg Address of religious liberation. It freed Jews from centuries of murderous prejudice, and it freed Catholics from carrying the burden of hate and perpetrating evil. It called on Catholics to engage with Jews in dialogue and mutual understanding, and, to a large extent, (the upside of a patriarchal, hierarchal religion) that’s what has happened.

To mark the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) organized an early November mission to Mexico City, site of the largest and oldest cathedral in the Americas and the demographic Ground Zero of Catholicism in the Americas. The mission also celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, and dozens of Jews from across Latin America joined their counterparts from the United States.

I went because I belong to the first generation that can take Nostra Aetate for granted. I’d read about Jewish kids having to fight a gantlet of Catholics on the way to school and thought it almost incomprehensible — my first childhood friend, David Pietrasanta, was a Church-going Catholic. But those ancient hatreds were ordered to change on a dime, and the dime dropped just after I was born. 

“The Second Vatican Council,” said Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Archbishop of Mexico City, “was one of the most important events of the 20th century.”

Rivera, Mexico’s highest-ranking prelate, spoke seated in front of the gold altar at the Metropolitan Cathedral, where the group gathered for a formal ceremony. He said Pope Francis would be very happy to see Jews and Catholics gathered together in Mexico’s central cathedral.

The Church officials kept emphasizing that Nostra Aetate offered a way for “enemies” to reconcile. The Jewish speakers, meanwhile, saw the landmark declaration as the Church finally coming to terms with its anti-Semitic teachings.

Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s Director of Interreligious Affairs, sat at the altar beside the cardinal and AJC Executive Director David Harris. “What we are celebrating is true teshuvah,” Rosen said, using the Hebrew word for “repentance,” though its root meaning is “return.” “The Church is returning to its origins.”

After the speeches, the assembly filed out onto a large tented patio, where the cardinal hosted a reception — soft drinks and tuna tartare. The next evening, the AJC, which functions as a kind of unelected but entirely reliable representative of the Jewish people, hosted a formal dinner with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. There were many toasts to friendship and prosperity, with the president making sure to praise — twice — the Jewish community’s pro-immigration stance.

I leaned over to a new friend, a successful Mexican-Jewish manufacturer, and noted how warm our reception in Mexico had been.

“The people were never anti-Semitic,” he said. “The Church was.”

It’s the nature of fundamentalism, I suppose, to populate imaginary worlds with real enemies. The cardinal said Nostra Aetate concluded centuries of animosity. I couldn’t help wondering if he realized the hate was always one-sided. 

That night, back in my hotel, I Googled, “Inquisition Mexico.” Sure enough, it tore through the country, destroying thousands of lives in its wake. The Inquisitor’s court operated from 1571 to 1820, just blocks from where the cardinal received us. Its most tragic victims were the family of Luis de Carabajal y Cueva, founder of the town of Nueva Leon. A convert to Christianity, Luis was accused of secretly practicing Judaism. On Dec. 8, 1596, his wife, Francisca, their four children and four young relatives were tortured and burned at the stake on the main square in Mexico City. 

Nostra Aetate put an end to a history that had long since been erased. “Star Wars” fans know more details about their pretend world than we do about the lost world of Spanish and Latin American Jewry. 

But, hey, look at the bright side. Things can change. Extremism can ebb. And in those places where, even now, a different religion has released a new scourge, its leaders could take a page from the Church and declare an end to a war none of us has chosen to fight.

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Israel vs. ISIS

The tragic attacks, first in Sinai, then in Beirut, and now in Paris, should remind us that the fight against ISIS — the fight against Islamic terror — belongs to no one country and no one religion. We are all threatened, we must all fight, and with every means possible.

Then why is it, I wonder, that Europe is fighting terror with one hand tied behind its back?

The havoc the terrorists wreaked upon Paris last week may be new to the West, but it’s old news to Israel. Gunmen shooting unarmed innocents? Ma’alot, 1974. Bombs made of propane tanks and nails? Afula, 1994. Suicide bombers in restaurants? Sbarro pizzeria, Jerusalem, 2001.  

One year ago this week, the Israel Defense Forces announced that undercover agents from its Duvdevan unit uncovered a 30-person Hamas terror network just as it was preparing to carry out a simultaneous attack on numerous soft targets around Jerusalem, including the city’s Teddy soccer stadium.   

Israel has developed a unique expertise in thwarting attacks before they happen. When it comes to fighting Islamic terror, other countries are, to borrow an unfortunate phrase from President Barack Obama, the JV team. Israel is varsity.

So in the international effort to disrupt and dismantle ISIS, why isn’t Israel playing front and center?

To defeat ISIS and the ideology that spawns it will take more than military might. But a combination of intelligence and military power is certainly part of the solution, and Israel could and should be one of the West’s most effective assets.

It’s a lot easier to hit ISIS in the Sinai by taking off from southern Israel, for example, than from Germany or Turkey. The Golan Heights looks down on ISIS positions in what was once Syria. Beyond geography, Israel has decades of experience in human and signal intelligence and counter-terrorism. It also has very cool toys, like the Super Heron drone. In July, an Israeli drone killed two Hezbollah operatives and three members of a pro-Assad militia driving on a road in Syria. It would certainly give ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi pause to know he was on an Israeli target list.

In short, those who want to defeat ISIS have a potential front-line ally with equipment, expertise and experience.   

Right now, Israel’s role remains behind the scenes. Following the attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was left hinting that Israel has been useful in helping France, but clearly its ability to join a gathering international coalition is limited.

The list of countries that wants ISIS dead and gone grows longer by the week: France, Turkey, the NATO allies, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Russia, Egypt.  Jordan sent fighter planes to carry out bombing raids against the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa long before France did.

The problem is that many of these countries find it more useful to cooperate  in the shadows with Israel — a greater demon than ISIS, evidently, in the eyes of their people. The fact that it is Israeli radar that collected telltale signals that a bomb took down the Russian airliner over Sinai has complicated the investigation with the Egyptian government, according to CNN.   

This is frustrating to the governments themselves, which know how effective and useful Israel can be.

Alon Ben-David, the defense correspondent for Israel’s Channel 10, told me the clandestine — but well-known — cooperation between Israel and the Gulf States in fighting ISIS and al-Qaida is a “mistress-like relationship”— it takes place only behind closed doors.

That’s also true, by the way, in areas of agriculture, water and industry. Israeli consultants on non-Israeli passports are a meaningful part of Gulf Arab economies — but all the light they bring remains in the shadows.

As heart-wrenching as ISIS’ attacks have been in Sinai, Beirut and Paris, they may also present an opportunity to shake up the Middle East status quo and bring Israel in from the cold. The old fight was Jew versus Muslim. The new and far more relevant fight is moderates versus extremists, modernity versus medievalism. On that front, Israel is the natural ally of many Arab states (whose degree of moderateness is, of course, relative).

The fight against ISIS, in other words, could become a historic milestone in Israel’s regional legitimacy.

We’ll see if Arab leaders have the good sense to go in this direction. Israeli military and diplomatic experts tell me that what would help, enormously, is for Israel itself to make a public and concerted effort to move toward a rapprochement with its Palestinian neighbors.

“The Gulf leaders are begging for some sort of progress,” a senior Israeli military official told me in early November, before the Paris attacks increased the urgency. “Not even a deal, just movement toward a deal.”

An Israeli-Palestinian thaw would help bring the Israel-Arab cooperation out into the open and begin Israel’s integration in the region and the world.  And it would help knock ISIS back on its heels. For decades, Israel fought alone, or almost alone. How different would the world look if that were to change?

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Letters to the editor: UC’s dilemma, The Shabbos Project traffic jam, RCA and more

First Step: Naming the Problem

Thank you for running the excellent column by professor Judea Pearl (“The UC’s New Dilemma: To Name or Not to Name,” Nov. 6). His comments are perfectly succinct. As a parent of four UC students, current and alumni, we have personally felt the ugly whiplash of Zionophobia. 

My own kids have been silenced by teachers for pointing out factual errors in classroom discussions and have been assaulted and spat upon at anti-Israel rallies. My kids have spent all-nighters speaking at student council meetings on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. I have personally written more than a dozen letters to administrators, teachers and department chairs at UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara. 

As Pearl states, let’s name names and be explicit about where the First Amendment and discrimination meet.

Thank you for a strong piece.

Anne M. Storm, via email

Rules Are Rules

As an Orthodox Jewish woman, one who is very pro-women and women’s rights, I could not disagree more with the concept of ordaining women as rabbis (“A Time to Stand for Female Spiritual Leadership,” Nov. 6). Female leadership has its rightful place among all streams of Judaism, however, the Orthodox model maintains that women cannot conduct certain religious actions, specifically in regards to men fulfilling their commanded mitzvot. She cannot lead a man in prayer or assist him in the majority of his spiritual work, and therefore cannot fulfill the traditional role of rabbi within Orthodoxy. 

As a therapist — not a rabbi or a rabbi’s wife — I get daily calls with questions about religious matters of all kinds. If a woman wants to lead in the Orthodox movement, then she can and she should. The work is the work by any name. 

The RCA, although by far not free from the influences of power, control and, dare I say, misogyny, has done the right thing. Women do not need the title of rabbi to perform the work of a female community leader and it is presumptuous to assume that all Orthodox women want Orthodox women rabbis. 

No matter what happens, decency, respect and love for our fellow Jew must always be the tone of any discussion, regardless of the outcome. However, it is the responsibility of the established leadership, in this case, the RCA, to guard the gate of Orthodox Torah values. Those who wish for something different can, by all means, create something new under a different umbrella. 

Mia Adler Ozair, Beverly Hills

Project Gridlock

It’s hard “to be sane in an insane world” (as Rabbi Shlomo Yisraeli’s class was titled) when a Shabbat observance shuts down a major east-west thoroughfare — at rush hour on a Friday — with no advance publicity or advisory signage (“The Shabbat Heard ’Round the World,” Oct. 30). Affected businesses likewise were not notified and were forced to close early. From a public relations and traffic perspective, The Shabbos Project was a disaster. 

What was inspiring for Rabbi Yonah Bookstein was infuriating to thousands of commuters who didn’t know their already-rough commute was going to be made much worse by the closing of a critical section of Pico Boulevard during a peak traffic period. Traffic was a nightmare, with many drivers frantically turning north and south through residential neighborhoods to escape the gridlock. 

I hope the Jewish Unity Network can find a more appropriate location (e.g., a private venue or a public park) for its event next year, so Jews and non-Jews alike can get home — some of us for our own Shabbat dinners — without needless disruption and aggravation.

Susan Gans, president, Roxbury-Beverwil Homeowners Alliance

20/20 Hindsight? Continued

How could Rob Eshman yearn for Bill Clinton (“Bring Bill Clinton Back to the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Table,” Oct. 30)?  Is he not aware that the Clinton foundation has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the leaders of Qatar, the premier sponsor of Hamas terrorism? While Bill and Hillary are cashing those checks and adding to their $150 million influence-peddling treasure trove, Israelis have died from different checks written by Qatar’s leaders.

Shame on him for being so gullible and backing the Clintons, who put our country up for sale.

Jason Goodman, via email

corrections

A Business and Finance story about the ride service HopSkipDrive (“Kids Catch a Ride With HopSkipDrive,” Nov. 6) incorrectly identified Smart Capital as one of its investors instead of FirstMark Capital.

A Travel story about Goa, India (“Ready, Set, Goa,” Oct. 30), misspelled the first name of the owner of the Cozy Nook. The owner’s name is Agnelo “Aggy” D’Costa.

Letters to the editor: BDS and David Myers, Israel’s future, Ben Carson and guns

BDS: Anti-Semitic or Strategic?

David Myers’ article acknowledges a number of important points about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, but misses the big picture (“Another Way to Think about BDS,” Oct. 16).

Myers correctly states that while some BDS activists are openly anti-Semitic, others are well-meaning people who think they are simply protesting Israeli policy. But BDS should be judged primarily by its political goals, not the intentions of its supporters. BDS is racist at its core because it denies the Jewish people their right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland — Israel. This is true whether its activists realize it or not.

Myers blames the rise of BDS on — what else? — the occupation. But boycotts existed before 1967, and BDS’s current focus on Israel’s presence in the West Bank is purely strategic. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti himself said, “Would ending the occupation mean the end of BDS? No, it wouldn’t.”

BDS leaders plan to continue until the Jewish people are returned to statelessness because this is their definition of “justice in Palestine.” The anti-Semitic incidents we see on campuses and elsewhere are an inevitable byproduct of this racist agenda.

Lastly, the strategy Myers prescribes is misguided. One-sided condemnations of Israel without equal or greater pressure on Palestinian leaders will only bolster BDS and undermine efforts to achieve a just peace. There’s no need for the Jewish community to heap blame on Israel while shielding Palestinian leaders from accountability. BDS is already doing that quite effectively.

Roz Rothstein

CEO, StandWithUs 

David Myers responds: I oppose the global BDS movement. Moreover, I think we should hold Palestinian leaders accountable for their corrupt and misguided management of their people’s legitimate aspirations for national self-determination. Where I disagree with Roz Rothstein is in the belief that Israel is right in occupying the West Bank of the Jordan river. We do ourselves no benefit with the head-in-the-sand approach that she favors. The occupation is a political disaster, morally corrosive and a huge weight around Israel’s neck that must be lifted.

Two-State Solutions, Three Opinions

Rob Eshman’s editorial left me ambivalent. While I agree that playing the blame game is trivial and that it is time we stop contemplating the past and start focusing on the future, I do not agree with his opinion on a two-state solution. If a two-state solution meant ending this ubiquitous belligerence between Israel and the countries surrounding it, I believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would jump at the opportunity and wouldn’t “put off big decisions.” However, the Camp David Summit in 2000, where Ehud Barak offered concessions and Yasser Arafat walked out, is a prime example as to why a two-state solution could never work. No matter how much Israel gives in concessions, it will never be enough. While Eshman might be correct that Israel “can’t survive the death of the two-state solution,” Israel won’t be able to survive the life of a two-state solution until the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. 

Amira Felsenthal , Los Angeles

I thought “Sticks, Stones and Centrifuges” (Oct. 16) was brilliant. So well written and meaningful. Thank you. 

Might I offer something that may be of interest? It’s about the statements: “So, can Israel make a bold move here? Given the turmoil surrounding it, given the increasing radicalization and despair of the Palestinians, dare Israel dare?” and “I believe Israel has more to lose by clinging to the status quo than by shaking it up.”

Doesn’t almost every Jew want the same thing? It is the question of what comes next that divides us. Hasn’t Israel always taken bold chances, time and again since its creation, to advance peace with the Arabs? 

Has Israel made huge mistakes? Absolutely. We all know it. Yet Israel must continue to take steps for peace. We are in total agreement on this.

Rob Cherniak, Vancouver 

The Second Amendment and the Second World War

Well, Jewish Journal published yet another rant against conservatives, this time Ben Carson was on the leftist chopping block for stating a belief that, had the Jewish people not been unarmed, Hitler could not have achieved the near-total annihilation of European Judaism (“The Nutty Neurosurgeon,” Oct. 16).

I cannot believe a Jewish publication could not be aware of the anti-Nazi uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, when a handful of Jewish heroes and heroines held off a huge array of Nazi military forces for several weeks with nothing more than a few handguns.

It is highly unlikely that hordes of Nazi soldiers would have entered Jewish homes to haul away our defenseless people had they known each home could have a rifle, perhaps a handgun or two and substantial amounts of ammunition — ready to kill those Nazis on the spot?

Leonard Melman, Nanoose Bay, Canada

Letters to the editor: Time to die; Gun control; Anti-Zionism

Determining Time

Dr. Neil Wenger’s intriguing opinion piece about the need for some patients to accept that it is “time to die” overstates the comparison between Moses’ death and what happens in contemporary ICUs (“When it’s Time to Die,” Oct. 9). 

Moses was the greatest prophet ever. When God declared that it was his time to go, there was no questioning the clarity or definitiveness of that command. The same cannot be said today, not merely because there are almost always accepted interventions that can prolong — or even save — lives, but also because the meaning attached to the life saved is open to interpretation. Today’s decisions are thus excruciatingly difficult and very different from the death of Moses. 

Wenger argues that aggressive end-of-life therapies don’t preserve the patient’s humanity and are thus not “befitting a human.” But whether that is so, in the case of Moses’ death, it was left up to God. Today, our struggle is to find God’s direction, which may sometimes legitimately include doing everything possible to try to save or prolong life and avoid any chance of hastening death. Our rabbis appreciated this struggle. That’s why they told us that it is “against your will you are born … against your will you will die.” We should also acknowledge that complexity.

Rabbi Jason Weiner, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Spiritual Care Dept.

Remembering a matriarch 

Thank you for printing Rabbi Laura Geller’s tribute to Rabbi Regina Jonas, the first female rabbi (“A Collective Effort to Remember the First Woman Rabbi on her Yahrzeit,” Oct. 2). For all women who must place themselves in the stories of “mankind” and live with presumed male pronouns when we speak of rabbis, leaders, community elders … how refreshing to know that women such as Rabbi Jonas were providing necessary comfort to our families’ souls during the Shoah.

And thank you, Rabbi Geller, for picking such an appropriate yahrzeit for Rabbi Jonas.

Yes, Shabbat Bereshit!  How appropriate to mark the beginning of remembering this great soul.

Aviyah Farkas, Los Angeles

Shotgun Logic

I disagree with almost everything Rob Eshman writes, but he was spot-on about gun control in the Oct. 9 issue of the Journal. Politicians who cower before the NRA and allow more guns on the streets aid and abet the horrible massacres perpetrated by the deranged, and Eshman correctly points out that strict gun control laws would greatly reduce deaths by gunfire. On this subject, my friends on the right have taken leave of their senses.

Chaim Sisman, Los Angeles

Jew-hater or Angry Neighbor?

I am a Jew and I am a Zionist. The Palestinians who act against Jews in Israel are acting not because they are Jews, but because they are Zionists. Thus calling it “Jew-hatred” only helps to invoke the historical hatred Jews have suffered under, mostly under Christianity. 

This is a fight between two national movements, one which has a state, and another group that could have had a state, had it accepted the partition plan in 1947. Certainly, when it comes to the religious shrines like the Temple Mount, the successionist elements of Abrahamic religiosity becomes prominent and the clash between the rightists among the Zionists on the Temple Mount is who is supreme, the Jewish or the Muslim “Abrahamics.” 

Because of this, in 1967, when the Temple Mount fell into Israeli hands, Moshe Dayan himself, the hero of the ‘67 war, ordered an Israeli flag removed because he realized that Israel’s fight is not with the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, but the much smaller Palestinian national movement.

Today, many rightists among the Zionists believe they should assert their claims to the Temple Mount, overlooking the rabbinical prohibitions based on the uncertainty of the location of the “Holy of Holies” site where no Jew dare tread because of its ritual sanctity.

I don’t believe this is a matter of who is right or who is wrong, but who is rational and who is irrational. Right now, it appears that the irrationals are winning.

Jerry Blaz via jewishjournal.com

David Suissa responds: Anti-Semitism very often veers into anti-Zionism. But even if you wanted to separate the two, there are countless examples of blatant Jew-hatred throughout Palestinian society. To cite just one recent example from official Palestinian TV: “Humanity will never live in comfort as long as the Jews are causing devastating corruption throughout the land.” If you want to see more examples, check out the website for Palestinian Media Watch.